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Brazilian Indians Reoccupy Lands. Farmers React with Death Threats and Lynching Attempt

Two weeks ago, the Maxakali indigenous people reoccupied their lands in rural areas in the state of Minas Gerais, in southeastern Brazil.

The action of the indigenous people unleashed a violent reaction from farmers who invaded the traditional lands of the Maxakali and also a response from the Funai (National Foundation for Indigenous People).


The agency finally accepted the claims of the indigenous people for including about 3000 hectares in their land that were not demarcated in 1996 and committed to send an anthropologist by late September to begin the study for reviewing the bounds of the land.


On Sunday, August 28, the farmers accused Cimi (Indianist Missionary Council) missionaries of masterminding the reoccupation of lands and tried to beat them. On Monday, the farmers intimidated the indigenous people firing shots to the air and at the location where the Maxakali are camped.


On Tuesday, an agreement was signed between the indigenous people, Funai and farmers during a meeting held in the city of Santa Helena de Minas, in the municipality where the indigenous land is located.


According to the agreement, the indigenous people will remain in 2,000 m² of the reoccupied hectares until the study to be carried out by Funai is completed. The agreement also states that “the farmers can use the road and farms and continue to carry out their activities in them as usual.


“The farmers pledged not to remove any timber from the land until a final court decision is rendered determining the repossession or non-repossession of the land.”


Funai was also charged with providing food to the community.


In Cimi’s opinion, the indigenous people only signed the agreement as proposed after the farmers resorted to violence with the clear purpose of coercing them into doing so. The return of the farmers to the farms may give rise to additional problems.


Aggression


As a result of the reaction of the farmers who invaded the indigenous land, two members of the Cimi team which is working with the Maxakali faced a lynching attempt and were accused of masterminding the reoccupation actions. The aggression was prevented by the Military Police.


During more than four hours, the missionaries were kept under the police protection in a fort in the municipality of Santa Helena, where they talked with farmers.


The house of one of the members of the Cimi team was stoned. Missionary Gilce Freire, her team mate Markus Breuss and his wife were forced to leave the city under police protection.


The group came to Brasí­lia to report the attempted aggression. They were received by the Human Rights Committee of the Chamber of Representatives, by the Land Affairs Division of Funai, and by the 6th Chamber of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office.


“Our objective is to ensure the safety and life of the indigenous people, Cimi missionaries, and their families. The Federal Police must remain in the area,” said Gilce Freire.


The need to ensure the safety of the missionaries remains because other members of Cimi and their families who live in Santa Helena de Minas and nearby cities were threatened by telephone this week.


Actions Being Taken


The Human Rights Committee of the Chamber of Representatives (CDH) scheduled a visit to Santa Helena de Minas and to the Maxakali land for September to become more acquainted with the situation there.


Federal and state representatives, mayors of the region, and representatives of the ministry of Justice, Funai, Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Public Safety Secretariat of Minas will be invited. CDH will also try to schedule a meeting with the ministry of Justice.


The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Brasí­lia and Minas Gerais will ask the Federal Police to remain in the region of the conflict.


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

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