The suicide rate among Brazil's Guarani-Kaiowá Indians is on the increase, a just released report reveals. CIMI (Indianist Missionary Council) the Brazilian indigenous rights organization, which is linked to the Catholic church, has released its annual report Violence Against Indigenous Peoples in Brazil – 2008.
It documents assassinations, suicides, land conflicts, negligence by authorities and racism against Indians.
One of the most shocking statistics highlighted is the suicide rate of the Guarani-Kaiowá in Mato Grosso do Sul state. Thirty-four Guarani-Kaiowá killed themselves in 2008 – seven more than in 2007.
Forty-two Guarani were murdered last year, mostly in internal conflicts. Many observers believe this is directly linked to the fact that most Guarani communities have almost no land. Alcoholism is rife, and the communities are crammed into small reservations where it is virtually impossible to plant, hunt or fish.
"Cattle are worth more than children, sugar cane more than a forest," says Guarani Kaiowá spokesman Anastácio Peralta.
The anthropologist who organized the report, Lúcia Rangel, says, "There is tremendous resistance at all levels of non-indigenous society against recognizing Guarani-Kaiowá land rights. This resistance is growing and results in strong prejudice and racism against the indigenous people."
The report also highlights the huge risks posed by logging and dams to Brazil's uncontacted tribes. It says the very survival of a group of 60 uncontacted Awá, whose forest is being rapidly destroyed by loggers, is now at stake.
Four groups of uncontacted Indians will see their lands flooded by the Madeira hydroelectric dam planned in Rondônia state.
The publication of the report coincides with the annual Acampamento Terra Livre (Free Earth Camp). Hundreds of Indians from all over Brazil have camped for the past week in the capital Brasília, to lobby politicians on many issues including land rights, health and education.
Human rigts organization Survival International, which protects tribal peoples all over the world, has opened a fund to support the Guarani, in association with the film Birdwatchers, which stars Guarani-Kaiowá Indians. All donations will go towards helping them defend their rights, lands and futures.