Brazilian Indians and Multinational Fighting for a Piece of Land

A public hearing on the situation of the lands of the Tupinikim and Guarani peoples in EspÀ­rito Santo, in the southeast of Brazil, was granted Wednesday, August 10, by the Human Rights and Minorities Committee of the Chamber of Representatives in BrasÀ­lia.

Part of the indigenous territory, which had been occupied by the Aracruz Cellulose transnational corporation and was being used to plant eucalyptus, was reoccupied by the indigenous people in May of this year.

Since then, the Tupinikim and Guarani indigenous peoples and the company have been fighting for the right to stay in the land.

"We will not give up our right to stay in the land. We can talk about how the company will be indemnified for what it built or planted in it, but we will not leave the land," said Antonio Carvalho, an indigenous person.

According to the Indians, the audience was aimed at ensuring the commitment made by Funai and the ministry of Justice to issue an administrative ruling recognizing the right of the indigenous people to occupy the area, which has been anthropologically recognized as an indigenous area.

Roberto Lustosa, a Funai official, said that the agency intends to take the necessary steps for the ruling to be issued, provided that it is not subject to any legal questioning.

"The administrative ruling will only be issued after we can verify that it will not be legally challenged right after it is published."

According to him, the government thinks that the administrative ruling providing for the demarcation of the whole area, and not of just part of it, as provided for in another ruling that replaced the previous one, should be reissued:

"The administrative ruling issued in 1998 did not challenge the anthropological report prepared by Funai," he says.

The indigenous people began to rebuild their villages already and they want to remove the eucalyptus plantation from their land.

The land, which is located in the municipality of Aracruz, in the state of Espí­rito Santo, was anthropologically identified by Funai in 1998 as an area covering about 18,000 hectares.

It was, however, demarcated in islands totaling 7,061 hectares after an agreement was reached under which Aracruz had right to use part of the land in exchange for payments.

The agreement, which was signed between indigenous people and the company under questionable conditions, was initially supported by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF).

One month later, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office questioned the legitimacy of the agreement, since indigenous lands are, by definition, inalienable under the Constitution.

The audience was attended by indigenous leaders from the two peoples, representatives of Funai, the ministry of Justice, and the Federal Prosecutor’s Office and a representative of the Aracruz Cellulose company, Carlos Alberto Roxo, who said that the company will file suit to ensure its right to stay in the land.

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

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