Brazil’s Federal Police are investigating the attack on Indians occurred in Mato Grosso do Sul, last Friday, November 18. A group of 40 masked men raided the Guaviry camp, in the south of the state, and fired at the Indians.
According to the indigenous people at the time of the attack they were praying and an Indian leader ended up dead. The police collected fragments of ammunition and other evidence to investigate the case.
About 70 indigenous from villages near the camp Guaviry, along the border between Mato Grosso do Sul and Paraguay have now joined the indigenous people from Guarani Kaiowá village. They demand the body of the chief Nísio Gomes, who was killed last Friday by a group of 42 armed men.
The regional coordinator of Funai, Silvio Raimundo da Silva explained that the chief was a highly respected religious leader by the Indians and therefore the disappearance caused great impact on the region’s indigenous population. “They are very agitated, upset and fearful about the situation,” said Silva.
The Federal Police has opened an inquiry to investigate the case.
According to the indigenous heavily armed men stormed the camp and shot the chief with shots in the head, chest, arms and legs. To the witnesses, the indigenous leader is dead, because with shots throughout the body he could not have survived.
However, according to a son of the chief, who tried to save his father, the gunmen opened fire with rubber bullets and Funai says the chief has disappeared. Two other young men and a child were also taken by the snipers.
Forensics police were on the site of the shooting and collected pieces of ammunition and traces of blood. Tests should indicate if samples are of human material.
Again according to Funai, about 30 Indians who were camped are still missing in the woods. The others are meeting with the group that arrived at the camp Saturday night.
Gomes was executed in front of his community. Gunmen surrounded the Indian leader, ordering his community to lie on the ground. Witnesses say he was shot in the head, chest, arms and legs. The 59-year-old’s body was then driven away.
Gomes is believed to have been the main target of this attack, although there are unconfirmed reports of children being kidnapped and a woman being killed.
He was the leader of a group of Guarani Indians, 60 of whom returned to part of their ancestral land in the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul at the start of November, after being evicted by cattle ranchers.
Members of the community say this is not the first time they have been attacked since their return, and that gunmen had been circling their roadside camp since Wednesday.
One Guarani Indian said, “We’ll stay on the camp. We’ll all die here. We will not leave our ancestral land.”
The killing of Nísio Gomes has startling parallels to that of Marcos Veron, a Guarani leader murdered by employees of a Brazilian rancher in 2003.
Survival International’s director Stephen Corry said, “It seems like the ranchers won’t be happy until they’ve eradicated the Guarani. This level of sustained violence was commonplace in the past and it resulted in the extinction of thousands of tribes. It is utterly shameful that the Brazilian government allows it to continue today.”