Murder of Dozens of Brazilian Indians in 2009 Reveals State’s Failure

Terena Indians from Mato Grosso do Sul, BrazilSixty murders, nineteen suicides, sixteen cases of attempted murder, and the list goes on. These are just some of the critical data revealed by the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) through the Report on Violence Against Indigenous Peoples in Brazil – 2009. 

Much of the information is similar to the 2008 report. This, however, does not diminish the seriousness of the issue, because the repetition of numbers only confirms the daily violence experienced by indigenous peoples in all regions of the country.

The launch of the publication was at the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), in the presence of the general secretary of the CNBB, Dom Dimas Lara, the coordinator of the research Lucia Helena Rangel – Ph.D. in anthropology from the PUC, São Paulo -, Cimi president Bishop Erwin Kräutler, Cimi’s vice-president, Roberto Antonio Liebgott, and the national board of the entity.

As stressed in his introductory text, Roberto Liebgott notes that the report has to show “the omission as policy option of the federal government in relation to indigenous peoples.” Such an attitude implies different forms of violence, such as non-demarcation of land, lack of protection of indigenous lands, neglect in health and education.

This attitude also implies in turning a blind eye to the murder of indigenous leaders, attacks on road side camps and villages and other assaults by security guards, attacks on the indigenous peoples living in isolation, torture by federal police officers and suicides, among others.

Cases of violence against indigenous peoples do not cease. The report once again draws attention to the extreme number of human rights violations concentrated in Mato Grosso do Sul, especially those related to the Guarani people Kaiowá. In the state with the second largest indigenous population of the country, more than 53.000 people, the constitutional rights of these peoples are more than ignored.

Only last year, 33 indigenous people were murdered in Mato Grosso do Su;, which represents 54% of the total 60 cases presented in the report. Such occurrences are characterized by Iara Tatiana Bonin as institutional racism in her article.

“The systematic violence recorded in recent years permits the assertion that a type of institutional racism is configured in this state, materialized in actions of civil groups and omissions by public powers”.

The report further indicates the conflicted situation in which the indigenous people of southern Bahia live. In the region it is easy to verify a growing process of criminalization of leaders and intensified actions against indigenous peoples. In 2009, five indigenous members of the Tupinambá community of Serra do Padeiro were captured and assaulted during an action by Federal Police. During the action they received electric shocks in the dorsal and genital regions.

High indices of violence are registered in reference to assaults on indigenous patrimony caused by infrastructural projects of the federal government. The works range from small hydropower programs, ecotourism, gas pipelines, mineral exploration/exploitation, railways and canals. These projects impact indigenous territories and affect the lives of diverse peoples, including those who have little or no contact with surrounding society.

An example of such works is the hydroelectric Belo Monte, Pará, on the Xingu river. The project advocated by the government as a source of development, in fact, says some analysts, will bring disastrous and irreversible damage to the environment and communities in the region.

Numerous specialists and social movements have pointed to the endless number of irregularities involving the work, such as failure to comply with Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which guarantees the right of the people to be heard in the case of projects that affect them.

The research methodology employed was the same utilized in previous years: taking as source, news reports carried in newspapers, magazines, radio, internet sites, in addition to systematic records kept by the regional staff teams of  CIMI.

According to professor Lúcia Rangel, “It is not possible to verify a diminution of  conflicts and situations of violence, even if some numbers are lower than those recorded in previous years”. She also emphasizes that the report does not cover all cases and only reports cases of record that were possible to obtain during the calendar year.

In order to avoid that this reality of violence against the indigenous peoples becomes trivial, CIMI says, it continues to report these aggressions to the public, to human rights organizations at the national and international level, to legislators, judges and to authorities.

And, as Liebgott states, the conviction of CIMI is that this reality must be confronted, denounced and that those responsible be taken to trial.

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