Brazil’s Indian Agency Agrees With Farmers That Indians Have Too Much Land

In an article published by the Reuters news agency, the president of Funai, Mércio Pereira Gomes, issued statements questioning the rights of indigenous people to the lands that they have traditionally occupied.

"It’s too much land. Up to now, there have been no limits to their land claims, but we are reaching a point where the Federal Supreme Court will have to set a limit," said Gomes.

It is the opinion of the Indianist Missionary Council (Cimi), that it is amazing that a Funai president should echo the words of those who want to impose limits on indigenous lands in the country, because this is one of the old demands made by the sectors that are opposed to indigenous groups.

"This goes to show that Mércio Gomes and the Lula government are tied in with agribusiness and the old rural oligarchies in the country," states Saulo Feitosa, Cimi vice president.

Feitosa remembers that there is a proposed constitutional amendment in the Federal Senate that aims to limit the extension of indigenous lands in each Brazilian state. This has been proposed by Senator Mozarildo Cavalcanti, who has historically acted to oppose the demarcation of indigenous lands.

In Funai’s defense, Gomes also said that "Brazil should be mentioned as an example to other countries. We have taken indigenous lands back from farmers who have been there for two generations. Who else does this?", whilst ignoring the original rights of indigenous people to the lands that they have traditionally occupied, and which are guaranteed by the 1988 Federal Constitution.

Gomes’s statements were made in the context of the repercussions of the data published by Cimi, earlier this month, which showed that 38 indigenous people were murdered in 2005, making it the year with the highest number for the last decade.

"Cimi claims that is the sluggishness of the Brazilian State in indigenous land recognition and protection processes which is the primary cause of the violence that indigenous people are forced to live with.

"One of the clearest examples of this connection is the confined situation of the Guarani people. For them, and for many other peoples, phrases like "too much land" don’t make any sense," said Saulo Feitosa.

Ten thousand indigenous Guarani people live confined to an area of 3,475 hectares in the Jaguapiru and Bororo settlements, near to the city of Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul.

A large part of these people do not have anywhere to plant crops and there is no work available in the soy plantations or cattle ranches that surround the area. These ranches were, in many cases, built on the lands where indigenous people used to live.

In view of their situation, many men are obliged to work in sugar cane processing plants, in conditions akin to slavery, where they are exposed to alcohol and prostitution.

The lack of prospects and the confinement have led to a situation of tension, alcoholism and high suicide levels and a clearly violent environment. "It is not possible to separate this situation from the situation of not having any land," said Feitosa.

Cimi – Indianist Missionary Council

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