War Operation Against Airstrip in Brazil


War Operation Against Airstrip in 
Brazil

The Brazilian government has used war planes and helicopters
to destroy an airstrip deep down in
the Amazon Forest. The place
was being used by drug traffickers and Farc guerrillas. Thousands
of
Indians from the area seem to be pleased with the action.
Some of them had been kidnapped to fight with the Farc.

by:
Lima
Rodrigues

 

An airstrip in northern Brazil, which was built by a mining company in the 1980s, located just three kilometers from
the Colombian border, has been destroyed by Brazilian authorities for a second time. The first time the landing field was
blown up was in July 2002. It is located in an area known as Serra do Caparro, municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, 850
kilometers from Manaus, and then, as now, was being used by Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas and
drug traffickers.

The 57 indigenous communities with 3,300 Indians, which occupy some 8,000 square kilometers of Indian reserve
lands in the region, which is known as Cabeça do Cachorro (Dog’s Head) are pleased that the government has destroyed the
airstrip near them. Besides the guerrillas and drugs shipments, it also was used as a base for prospectors who invade Indian
lands in search of gold and gems.

The second destruction of the airstrip took place on November 4 in a joint operation by the Federal Police and the
Air Force. Ten airplanes were used: 4 AMX, 5 F-5 and a C-130 fuel tanker, besides helicopters. The new Brazilian Amazon
Vigilance System (Sivam) was also used in the operation.

The Indian group nearest the area are the Baniwas, a community of 232 individuals, who occupy a reserve of 450
square kilometers. Members of the tribe informed Brazilian authorities that the airstrip was back in use and cooperated with
the operation, known as Princesa dos Pampas (Pampas’s Princess), because they wanted to free themselves of the triple
threat to their existence (drugs, guerrillas and prospectors).

The head of the local Indian Affairs office (Funai), Edson Caldas Lopes, says that his work in the area is to protect
the Indians from unwanted, illegal outsiders. He says that Funai’s main concern at the moment is with Farc guerrillas who
have been known to kidnap Indians to make them fight with the guerrillas. Lopes says that with the destruction of the Caparro
airstrip there are no longer any illegal landing fields in the Amazon region.

The special coordinator of Frontier Operations of the Federal Police (PF), commissioner Mauro Spósito, speaking
from the Baniwas Indian community of Tunuí, in São Gabriel da Cachoeira (AM), during the Operation, underscored that
the partnership between the Federal Police and the Armed Forces has produced a drastic reduction in the number of drug
arrests on the frontier. According to the commissioner, through the year 2000, the monthly average of cocaine seized on the
frontier was one thousand kilos. The current average is around 250 kilos.

Indian Games

The Brazilian Indian Peoples’ games (Jogos dos Povos Indigenas), which are taking place in Palmas, capital city of
the state of Tocantins, has turned into a spectacle of tribal art and artists as Indians from all over Brazil exhibit and sell
their handicrafts.

Palmas is located on the banks of the Tocantins River, an Amazon River tributary. The games are taking place at
Praia da Graciosa Beach (Graciosa Beach). No less than 32 ethnic groups are participating and an average of 20,000
spectators attend events daily.

Although there are a number of Indian tribes who live in the vicinity of Palmas, there are others who are not so
close. For example, the Wai-Wai, known for their excellent artwork, traveled by canoe for a week to arrive. And the Pataxó
have decided to innovate by selling CDs with Indian music and songs.

 

Lima Rodrigues works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government.
Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br

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