Brazil: Indians in Fear in Their Land

Brazil: Indians in Fear in Their Land

The president of the Indigenous People’s Committee, Agostinho

Rodrigues, gave an emotional
report of how he no longer
has anywhere to fish, hunt or gather honey for his children,
and that when
they try to gather from the lands that the
farm-owners control, they are chased away by armed guards.




A Brazilian House of Representative’s Human Rights Committee established to probe complaints by indigenous
peoples started off its 5th Caravan in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, on October 7. Deputies Orlando Fantazzini (São Paulo),
Pastor Reinaldo (Rio Grande do Sul) and César Medeiros (Minas Gerais) were part of the group. They were also accompanied
by an entourage of state deputies made up of Workers’ Party representatives Pedro Kemp and Pedro Teruel and Pastor
Barbosa. Escorted by the Federal Police, they reached the Buriti indigenous land, 98 km from Campo Grande, at the end of the
morning, where three indigenous Terena groups live in an area of 2,090 hectares.

The leaders and more than 400 members of the nine reservations had been waiting for the deputies since the early
morning. To start with, the leaders welcomed the visitors, and started off the audience with a cultural presentation of Bate-Pau, a
dance that came about after the Terena had fought in the Paraguay War. The land invasions and violence carried out by the
farm-owners was portrayed in an open-air theater play.

The eldest gave reports of how their lands had been stolen. Statements on the issue of land repossession were
highlighted, a struggle which has already lasted for more than 70 years. The deputies were given a document which stressed the
violence that the farm-owners use to coerce public institutions to not supply assistance such as blocking highways, shooting in
the direction of the people camped in the repossessed areas, deforestation, destroying the cemeteries where the indigenous
people’s forefathers are buried and using legal delaying tactics, which put obstacles in the way of the land demarcation proceedings.

The indigenous people have also spoken out about how the media has set society against them, highlighting the
biased and aggressive way in which information is presented, especially where the fight for land is concerned. Finally, they
expressed sorrow about the situation of Funai, which has neither the structure nor the funds to give assistance to the communities.

The president of the Indigenous People’s Committee, Agostinho Rodrigues, gave an emotional report of how he no
longer has anywhere to fish, hunt or gather honey for his children, and that when they try to gather from the lands that the
farm-owners control, they are chased away by armed guards.

The indigenous woman Naurelina, 84 years old, dreams of a future for her people and in a challenging yet wise tone
of voice said: "I am too tired to fight, but I still hope that we will have our land." And she cried out: "I ask the Lord to
touch the hearts of the authorities so that they return the land to their original owners, peacefully and without further
bloodshed of my countrymen".

After listening to the statements, the deputy Orlando
Fantazzini, speaking on behalf of the Committee, promised to
be the "spokesman for the wishes and demands of the Terena people in the parliament and the executive authorities ".

At 5:00 p.m, there was a Public Meeting in the Legislative Assembly, with the objective of listening to the
representatives of the indigenous people. It was a surprise to see that there were several farm-owners and some indigenous people at the
assembly who defended the leasing of the indigenous lands and changing Article 231 of the Federal Constitution, so as to allow
payment for the land to be granted to non-indigenous people.

The ex-treasurer of Mato Grosso do Sul, Ricardo Bacha, one of the people occupying the Buriti indigenous land,
speaking on behalf of the National Producers Movement (MNP), said that "the producers are prepared to defend their interests,
even if this involves deaths".

Kaiowá, Guarani and Terena leaders spoke to defend their rights and speak out about the violence that these people
have historically been subjected to. They also criticized the truculence which the large land-owners have used to suppress
repossession and the negligence of the authorities, as in the case of the Mbarakaí and Ka’ajari indigenous lands, belonging to
the Kaiowá people, where there have already been seven deaths and where the investigations have not found out who
perpetrated or organized the crimes.

The Federal Attorney Generals of Dourados and Campo Grande, Charles Stevan da Mota Pessoa and Wilson Rocha
de Almeida Neto, respectively, were jeered by the MNP representatives when they defended the rights of the indigenous
people and the Federal Constitution. The State Deputy Pedro Kemp suffered the same fate. The truculence of the farm owners
present at the public meeting and of the indigenous people that they brought with them prevented several leaders from speaking,
and they preferred not to make their statements.

Especially after Jacintho Honório, from Fazenda Brasília do Sul, in the Taquara indigenous land, had interrupted
the testimony of one indigenous person several times by shouting and making threatening gestures. If "a picture is worth a
thousand words", the Human Rights Caravan was treated to an accurate picture of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul when it visited
the state’s Legislative Assembly. Here the lives of cattle are worth more than those of human beings and the force of the
farm owners is stronger than human and constitutional rights.

Diamond Prospecting

Two days before the Human Rights Caravan reached the state, the governor of Rondônia, Ivo Cassol, met with the
Minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, to ask for the state to control the illegal extraction of minerals in the Roosevelt
indigenous land, belonging to the Cinta Larga people, in Espigão D’Oeste and Pimenta Bueno.

The governor handed the minister an official letter containing proposals which would make economic capital out of
the diamonds in the River Roosevelt. In an attempt to avoid conflicts between prospectors and the indigenous people,
Cassol proposed that the extraction of diamonds from the land of the Cinta Larga people be restarted, with the prospecting
carried out by non-indigenous people being covered by indigenous people’s associations and organizations and under the
control of the state.

In the document, the governor asks for the Companhia de Mineração de Rondônia – CMR, the state-owned mining
company, to organize prospecting, mineral research, technical service and environmental recovery. "Through extracting diamond s
from the Roosevelt Reserve, the indigenous people will get a percentage of the mined production, which will generate the
resources required to solve the problems that are of interest to the community", the document claims.

In the official letter, Cassol says that all information relating to the Roosevelt indigenous land will be passed over to
the Brazilian Intelligence Agency, and that CMR, together with the Caixa Econômica Federal or the Banco do Brasil, will
be responsible for the purchase of all the diamonds produced. The governor also said that if the proposal was not accepted,
there would be a lot of bloodshed.

The audience was granted by surprise. The minister met with the governor who returned to the state with the
impression that the Federal Government, if it did not immediately accept the proposal, would at least take some action in their
favor, as a result of the climate of doubt in the conversation caused by the fact that, at no time did the Minister, firmly oppose
these proposals. He even considered setting up a workgroup to analyze the issue. During the audience, it was at no point
remembered that it was an indigenous land and not a diamond mine that was being dealt with.

The activity of prospecting in the Cinta Larga lands is a subject that has been discussed at several government levels
and by organizations that support the indigenous people’s cause. An emergency plan which would enable the people to
achieve sustainability has already been proposed. This would not require the resources generated by prospecting. At the
beginning of this year, a supplementary credit plan was approved which has not, up to the present moment, been passed over to Funai.


Cimi is Brazil’s Indianist Missionary Council, an organization linked to CNBB, National Conference of
Brazilian Bishops. You can get in touch with them by sending an email to

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