Brazilian Indians Want Paper Firm to Give Back Their Land

Around 500 Tupinikim and Guarani indigenous people in the municipality of Aracruz, in the state of EspÀ­rito Santo, Brazil, started to demarcate their own lands this Tuesday, May 17.

They want the Brazilian Minister of Justice, Márcio Thomas Bastos, to guarantee the demarcation of the 18,000 hectares of indigenous lands that have already been recognized in conclusive studies carried out by Funai, the National Indian Foundation.


Of these 18,000 hectares, 11,000 were excluded through a decision taken by the then Minister of Justice, íris Resende, and are in the hands of the multinational company Aracruz Celulose.


The Tupinikim and Guarani lands are currently being occupied by eucalyptus trees used in the production of cellulose.


In March 2005, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) in the State of Espí­rito Santo set up an inquiry to investigate irregularities in the procedures to identify and ratify the Caieiras Velhas, Pau Brasil and Comboios indigenous lands, arguing that the processes did not take into account the anthropological studies undertaken by Funai.


The Office has asked for the identification procedures for the three indigenous lands to be declared null and void, so that they can be ratified as a whole. 


In 1998, when the indigenous lands were reduced in size, the Tupinikim and Guarani peoples demarcated their own lands but, 8 days later, the Federal Police put a stop to the action.


In a letter sent to the Minister of Justice, the indigenous people say that at that moment the Police “closed off access to the villages and took us to Brasí­lia, where without any right to counsel and isolated from our communities, we were obliged to sign an agreement with the company Aracruz Celulose under the threat of losing all the lands, if we did not accept the proposal.”


Aracruz Celulose justifies its presence in the indigenous lands based on an agreement signed in 1998. It is the MPF’s view that “the agreement is invalid because the Federal Constitution declares that all civil acts whose object is indigenous land are invalid.


The part in the agreement where the indigenous people give up the right to any legal claim to the lands is invalid,” says attorney Luciana L. Oliveira.


“We consider this agreement illegal, seeing that because of this we had to accept that Aracruz would continue to make use of 11,009 hectares of the Tupinikim and Guarani lands in exchange for compensation in the form of social projects for a period of 20 years.


“The illegal nature of the exchange of indigenous lands for money was confirmed by the Brazilian Federal Prosecutor’s Office itself, which withdrew its signature from the agreement back in 1998,” the indigenous people claim in the letter.


At the request of Aracruz Celulose, a federal court granted an injunction in favor of repossession of the lands. According to federal police chief Eugênio Ricas, this repossession order was to be delivered to Funai May 19.


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

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