Anti-Indian Feeling in Brazil Worries Bishop

“I returned from this  visit feeling very worried.” “I am very sad with what they are doing to this country.” “If we let this situation continue, we will pay for all eternity for a heavy crime.” These are the words of Dom Jayme Henrique Chemello, after returning from a visit to Roraima and to the Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous land.

It shows how the bishop is worried with the obstacles to the official confirmation of the bounds of the Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous land and with the threat posed by them to the survival of indigenous peoples in the region. “It is a matter deserving a humane approach,” he said.


Dom Jayme is worried as the deadline approaches for complying with court orders for the indigenous people to leave the land they live in, which recognize the right of rice farmers to stay in them.


The bishop talked with federal judge Helder Girão, who ruled in favor of repossession claims of the farmers, and questioned his decisions, which affect indigenous villages (communities):


“The farmers were the ones who encroached on the land”, says Dom Jayme.


During the visit, Dom Jayme went to Boa Vista, the capital of the state. The bishop said that he was impressed with the anti-indigenous feeling he sensed in the city.


“They think that indigenous people are the cause of the all the poverty faced in the State.”


Dom Jayme Chemello is the bishop of Pelotas and president of the Special Episcopal Commission for the Amazon Region of the CNBB (National Conference of Bishops of Brazil).


He was in Roraima accompanied by the Archbishop of Manaus, Dom Luiz Soares Vieira.


The purpose of the trip was to take a close look at the situation of indigenous peoples in the region and it also led to meetings with local Federal Police officers and with the governor of Roraima.


Conflict


Brazil’s Federal Court set up October 21 as the deadline for the spontaneous withdrawal of the indigenous communities from the Raposa/Serra do Sol land.


If the sentence is not complied with, the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR) must pay a daily fine of R$ 10,000.00 and the indigenous people may be compelled to leave, with the use of police force if necessary.


Concerned about the imminent possibility of conflict in the region, Noberto Cruz da Silva, CIR vice-coordinator, sent, on October 19, a letter explaining the decision of Juiz Helder Girão Barreto to the tuxauas (the name given to tribal chiefs in the North of Brazil).


He asked the indigenous people to accept the sentence, issued as a court order.


“CIR understands that this decision, even though it is contrary to the original rights of indigenous people and their interests, needs to be respected,” said the letter signed by the vice-coordinator.


The document also says that CIR neither substitutes nor has any responsibility for the decisions and actions of the communities.


“We didn’t come from outside and we are not going to leave here,” said the leader Nelino Galé after receiving the letter from the hands of the CIR leader, Júlio José de Souza.


Galé explained that the Homologação community is four kilometers from the headquarters and more than 100 meters from the fence of the Recife ranch, to which the Court granted land rights.


“The problem is that the Judge has never been here and does not understand the real situation, and he believes everything that the rice farmers say,” Nelino Galé protested. 


On receiving the document, the chiefs of the three communities unanimously declared that they were not going to leave the land that they have lived in since the times of their ancestors.


Júlio Macuxi insisted that the Indigenous Council of Roraima has already appealed against the decision, but until this appeal is judged, the court order must be obeyed.


“The organization is also concerned for the safety of the communities, since the Federal Police may receive orders to forcibly remove them,” he warned.


Once again, the Indigenous Council of Roraima is drawing the attention of the authorities to the imminence of conflict in the Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous land as a result of delays in ratification by president Lula da Silva.


The organization holds the Federal Government responsible for any act of violence committed against the indigenous people who are threatened with eviction from their own lands.


Macuxi, Wapichana, Ingarikó, Taurepang and Patamona indigenous people from Raposa/Serra do Sol have been invited by the Homologação, Jawarizinho and São Francisco communities to resist the land rights order. As of today, the chiefs are expecting around two thousand indigenous people to arrive.                    


www.cimi.org.br
Cimi ”“ Indianist Missionary Council

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