Indian Assassination Has Doubled in Brazil from 20 to 40 a Year

The extreme social exclusion and lack of government actions for truly protecting the rights of indigenous people can be cited as causes of the violence suffered by these peoples, according to a new study released by the Cimi, Brazil’s Indianist Missionary Council .

The cases discussed in the report "Violence Against the Indigenous Peoples in Brazil," launched by Cimi on May 31, even show that there is a genocide situation in Mato Grosso do Sul.

From 2003 to 2005, the three years analyzed by this publication, there was seen to be an increase in the number of deaths, attempted murders, death threats, bodily harm, sexual violence and land invasions.

The average number of indigenous people assassinated has doubled over the last few years.  It has jumped from 20 per year between 1995 and 2002 to 40, between 2003 and 2005.

According to Saulo Feitosa, vice president of Cimi, this increase in the number of deaths is directly linked to the suspension of the indigenous land demarcation process. The lower the number of lands demarcated, the more indigenous people die.

Over the last three years, the profile of those responsible for the deaths has also altered. Hired assassinations are once again taking place whereas, on the other hand, there are fewer cases where the authorities are responsible.

When the report was launched, Feitosa explained that the increase in the number of assassinations also occurred because, in recent years, Cimi has started to get better data on murders in Mato Grosso do Sul (MS), which is the state where the largest number of assassinations takes place.

There were 42 indigenous murder victims throughout Brazil in 2003, of which 13 lived in MS. In 2004, of the 37 recorded assassinations, 18 were in MS and, in 2005; the state was home to 29 of the 43 victims.

Very often, problems of violence do not involve indigenous individuals, but entire peoples. In 2003, there were assassination attempts on 21 individuals and 2 communities. In 2004, there were 38 cases of attempted murder, aimed at 51 individuals, as well as children of the Katukina people, in Acre.

Genocide in Mato Grosso do Sul

"The data in the report show that the situation of the Guarani-Kaiowá, in Mato Grosso do Sul, can be characterized as genocide," said Lúcia Rangel, from the Anthropology Department of PUC-SP (São Paulo Pontifical Catholic University) who organized the Report.

This state is where cases of rights violations, such as death threats, tumults, murders or land conflicts are concentrated. 

In the majority of these situations, the cause is lack of land. They include, for example, the increase in malnutrition. Lúcia Rangel also explains that overcrowding generates a climate of tension in the settlements:

"There is no way to plant crops, so internal disputes start up. Alcohol consumption increases, which causes a lot of confusion. The number of suicides increases."  

On the other hand, she remembers that the Guarani people are putting up strong resistance to this situation. The advance of agribusiness, which is one of the main reasons for the reduction in the land where the indigenous people are used to living, is not seen by them to be an irreversible situation.

"They are highly religious and strongly bonded to their children. Their relationship with time is also different, so in their view: this is a situation which can change," Rangel explained.

Risk of Death

The indigenous Tenharim people, in Amazonas, always talk about the existence of isolated indigenous people in the region where they live. They comment that they find traces when they collect nuts and that the threat to the group’s lives come from the soy planters, who are taking over their lands and the natural fields in the region.

The institution responsible for land demarcation, the National Foundation for Indigenous People, has still not taken steps to demarcate any land in order to guarantee the survival of these isolated peoples, which live in the Humaitá and Manicoré (Amazonas state) region.

The data presented in the report indicate that there are least 60 peoples who have not yet been contacted, of which 17 are in imminent danger of extinction because of the genocidal practices that have continued to the present day.
The increased threat in recent years has come from the expansion of the Brazilian agricultural boundaries, which recently reached the Amazon region.

"The centuries old practice of ignoring the presence of the indigenous people in the territorial colonization processes has continued, as the development, extractive, privatized scenario has advanced and now reached the Amazon lands ," explains Guenter Loebens, a Cimi missionary operating in Manaus.

"The strategy is to eliminate each and every trace of the indigenous presence to make demarcating their lands infeasible, releasing them for private occupation, the exploitation of their natural resources, cattle raising and agribusiness," the report concludes.

Children Constant Victims

When ranchers destroyed and set fire to three entire settlements, in Raposa Serra do Sol, Roraima, in 2005, they also affected the children that lived there.

Included in the cases of attempted murder presented in the report, are those that took place in 2004 against the children of the Katukina people, in Acre, who were threatened when they returned, in the company of their parents, to their settlement from the city, with retirement money, gasoline and supplies. In 2003, in Mato Grosso do Sul, on the night on which the chief Marcos Verón was assassinated, his 14-year old nephew was injured by gunshot.

In 2005, out of the 51 victims of assassination attempts in Mato Grosso do Sul, 10 were children or adolescents. In 2004, 7 of the 18 murder victims in that stare were under 18 years old.

Children also appear in well-known cases of malnutrition, lack of structure at schools, disrespect for the right to be taught to read in their native language, and sexual violence.

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

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