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Indians Get Land in Brazil and Governor Declares 7 Days of Mourning

After more than thirty years of resistance and organization by the Makuxi, Ingarikó, Taurepang, Wapichana and Pantamona peoples from Brazil, the demarcation of the Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous land, as a continuous area, was ratified on April 15.

In response to the Brazilian government action, Cimi, the Indianist Missionary council, stated in a press release issued on the day of the President Lula’s signature:


“The Brazilian state has thus taken its first step towards reestablishing true respect for the life of these peoples. Cimi considers that the conclusion to this stage of the political struggle, in favor of the confirmation of the constitutional rights of the indigenous peoples of Roraima to have come about as a result of the firm, fair and resolute position adopted by the indigenous people, as articulated by the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR), which coordinates the resistance of these peoples”
 
The news of ratification, by the Federal Government, came together with the announcement of four measures to protect the indigenous land from intrusion: the setting aside of 150,000 hectares of Government-owned land for setting up areas for the development of farming and cattle raising; the legalization of 10,000 family properties; identification and registration of all the families to be transferred out of Raposa Serra do Sol and São Marcos and settling them in Incra (National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform) projects; and the conclusion of the analysis, evaluation, and compensation payments for improvements identified in the Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous land within a year.   


National Foundation for Indigenous People (Funai) data indicate the existence of around 67 honest, non-indigenous residents, living in Raposa Serra do Sol, who will be removed from the land and compensated.


As far as the 16 rice farmers that are in the indigenous land today are concerned “there will probably be a solution found which involves the 150,000 hectares mentioned in the government package”, according to the Minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos.


The urban center of the municipality of Uiramutã – set up four years after Funai had completed the identification of the indigenous land, the federal and state highways, the electricity transmission lines, the Monte Roraima National Park and the area belonging to the 6th Special Border Platoon in the municipality of Uiramutã, were excluded from the indigenous land.


At the start of the week, the Governor of Roraima, Ottomar Pinto, announced seven days of mourning in the state because of the ratification of the land, which he considers a way of rendering rice farming in the region infeasible.


April 20, 15,000 people gathered in the center of Boa Vista, in Roraima, to protest against ratification of Raposa Serra do Sol, according to information disclosed by Agência Brasil and by the “Folha de S. Paulo” daily. The “Folha de Boa Vista” newspaper, from Roraima, claimed that there were 3,000 people present.


According to Agência Brasil, the Federal Police accompanied the demonstration in Boa Vista to guarantee the safety of the indigenous people. Federal Police Chief Francisco Mallman has been coordinating an operation to protect the indigenous community.


As a precautionary measure, the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR) remained closed. The CIR coordinator, Marinaldo Trajano, reveals that the indigenous people are not opposed to the farmers getting paid compensation, but they regret that many of them have polluted rivers and cleared forest areas, causing incalculable damage to the indigenous people.


“This demonstration in the city center strikes the CIR as a contradiction. The government has carried out its constitutional duty: it is our right to have our land demarcated”, said Trajano in an interview with Agência Brasil.


Activities Cancelled


Activities connected to the Indigenous People’s Week, which had been programmed by the indigenous organizations and their allies for Tuesday, 19 April, in Roraima, were cancelled.


“The cancellation of these activities was also a protest against the “terrorism” installed in the state of Roraima. This is a fruit of the action of groups of large estate owners, business segments and politicians, the position adopted by the State Government, and the incessant campaigns by the local media which, by sowing the seeds of misinformation and anti-indigenous bias, have led to more and more violent reactions against the signing of the decree to ratify the Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous land”, said the institutions that announced the cancellation.


These include the Indigenous People’s Ministry, the Organization of the Indigenous Teachers of Roraima, the Indigenous Council of Roraima, the Socio-environmental Historical Center of the Federal University of Roraima and the Migrant and Indigenous Person’s Information Center in the City.


A lecturer, who coordinates the Insikiran Indigenous Undergraduate Training Center at the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR), had his house firebombed. His family has also received two anonymous threatening telephone calls. The Federal Police have set up an inquiry to investigate the case.


In a press release repudiating the “acts of vandalism and violence suffered by the lecturer Fabio Almeida de Carvalho, Coordinator of the Insikiran Indigenous Undergraduate Training Center and consequently, UFRR”, the University states that “this aggression could be linked to the climate of tension in the State, due to the decision concerning the complex indigenous land situation.


“We must stress that the work of the Insikiran Center and the UFRR is carried out within the existing legal framework and aims to improve education in the State of Roraima. Therefore, we repudiate the violence suffered by the UFRR employee and his family”.


In Cimi’s opinion, these demonstrations against the ratification and demarcation of the Raposa Serra do Sol, organized by sectors that hold political and economic power in the state of Roraima, aim to retain the system of land grabbing, which is a common practice in this region and, above all, intend to pressurize the Federal Government to transfer lands belonging to the Union to the state of Roraima, so that these lands can be further exploited by agribusiness.


Cimi – Indianist Missionary Council
www.cimi.org.br

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