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Brazilian Indians Will Keep Land of the Fox and Mountain of the Sun

Indians from Raposa Serra do Sol Eight of the eleven Supreme Court judges in Brazil voted in favor of the actual demarcation of the indigenous area Raposa Serra do Sol (Land of the Fox, Mountain of the Sun), on December 10. The judges argued that they had not found any legal reasons to annul or change the demarcation of this border region in the northern Brazilian state of Roraima.

Although the trial is not over yet (one Federal judge asked for more time to reconsider his vote) the outcome will not change as the majority of the judges has cast its vote. This was reason for many indigenous in Roraima to celebrate the positive result.

The first to vote was Judge Carlos Menezes Direito. He had asked for more time to decide on August 27, after the promoter of the case had cast his vote. The promoter, Carlos Ayres Britto, in his vote rejected the claim that asked for the annulment of the demarcation.

Judge Direito agreed with various of the premises presented by Britto, but he voted for a partial rejection of the claim. He agreed that the process of identification and demarcation of Raposa Serra do Sol had been executed according to the legislation and that, therefore, the demarcation in one continuous area was valid. However, he established 18 conditions for access and use of the land and water in the area.

Four judges agreed with his vote. And promoter Britto changed his initial vote to follow Direito's judgement. At the same time, judge Joaquim Barbosa followed Britto's original vote.

Judge Marco Aurélio de Mello asked for suspension of the process, to reconsider his vote. His petition was granted, which  means that the process will only be concluded in the beginning of 2009. Before this request, promoter Ayres Britto proposed to annul the suspension of the decision that all non-indigenous have to leave the Raposa area.

The resistance of a group of non-indigenous rice farmers in the area had been the major motive to take the Raposa-case to the Supreme Court in the first place, questioning the validity of the demarcation process itself. Considering that this claim had been rejected, Britto argued that there was no reason that the non-indigenous remained any longer in the area.

Six judges agreed with his proposal, but again judge Mello asked for more time to consider his decision. This was granted by the president of the Supreme Court. Until the final voting session the non-indigenous will be allowed to continue in the area.

The 18 conditions established by judge Direito, put limitations to the possession and exclusive use by the indigenous of their territories. They also limit the rights to be consulted when they are affected by state projects, like the construction of canals, roads or the implementation of military bases in the area. These conditions will also be defined more precisely in the final session. Not all judges agreed to all points stipulated in Direito's vote.

Celebrations and Violence

In Brasí­lia, about 50 Indians from Roraima were present at the court case, accompanied by indigenous peoples from various areas in Brasil. Several of them were prohibited to enter the Supreme Court because they were not wearing a suit.

In spite of the suspension of the case, the indigenous celebrated the result. "We managed to keep our continuous area! We are very happy with this victory!"  said Makuxi chief Djacir Silva, from the Makuxi people.

Joênia Barbosa, of the Wapichana people and the first indigenous lawyer to appear at the Supreme Court, regretted the court decision to suspend the eviction of the non-indigenous people in the area. "We're afraid for the safety in the area, now the rice farmers know they will have to leave."

These worries were confirmed shortly after the court case was closed. In the village of Barro, in Raposa Serra do Sol, home-made bombs were thrown towards Indians who were celebrating the court decision.

"We will not react to these provocations,"  commented Marisete de Souza, Makuxi, of the Indigenous Board of Roraima (CIR). "We will continue our struggle, to win the pending votes. We are at ease, because we won already eight votes. Nobody of us is thinking of creating conflicts."

Chief Absolved

On November 16, chief Aurivan dos Santos, also known as Neguinho Truká, was absolved of the claim of theft that he was facing since 1999. The charges were brought after Neguinho and his people invaded an area they consider theirs, in Cabrobó, in Brazilian northeastern state of Pernambuco.

The State Court of Pernambuco also determined that the chief and other accused will receive reparations for moral damages.

Neguinho, Francisco Carinhanha, Eloí­sio de Souza e Adenilson dos Santos (Dena) were accused of stealing two cows that were in the area they occupied in 1999. The process against the latter, Dena, was stopped, as he was assassinated in 2005.

In his decision, judge Marcus César Gadelha noted that "the accused cannot be condemned for an attitude that served to still the hunger of their people during the struggle to get the lands back that belonged to them".

The state of Pernambuco, which filed the case, was condemned to pay the indigenous for the "illegal imprisonment they suffered'. He stipulated the indemnity for Neguinho at 100.000 Brazilian reais (US$ 41,964)," because he is a Truká chief and one of the major leaders of Brazil." The other accused will receive 50.000 reais (US$ 20,982).

Service

Indianist Missionary Council
www.cimi.org.br

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