35 Indians Prosecuted in Brazil for Invading and Destroying Properties

Thirty-five leaders of the Xukuru people are being prosecuted for having reacted to the murder of two young indigenous people and to an attempt to murder their chief.

The depositions of the leaders to a federal court began on August 3 in the city of Caruaru, state of Pernambuco, in northeastern Brazil, and they will continue until August 24. Ten people have been heard already.

They are being prosecuted under charges of having invaded homes, setting fire to them and damaging them and of having ordered the destruction of real estate items.

On February 7, 2003, an attempt against the life of chief Marcos Xukuru caused the death of two young people who were accompanying him and tried to defend him. In that incident, Josení­lson José dos Santos and José Ademilson Barbosa da Silva, two indigenous people, were killed. José Lourival Frazão was prosecuted and sentenced to prison for the crime.

On the date of the incident, an outraged group of Xukuru went to the Cimbres village to demand explanations from the perpetrators of the crimes and their supporters. When they got there, they were shot at and four indigenous people were injured. Nobody is being prosecuted for this act.

In their investigations, the Federal Police and the Federal Prosecutor’s Office turned the victims of the incident into defendants: chief Marcos Xukuru is also being prosecuted based on the argument that he caused the conflict.

During the depositions this week, the defendants said that a crowd of about 2,000 people reacted against the murders and that although the leaders tried to control them, it was impossible to prevent them from expelling from the indigenous land the group that committed the acts, which is an ally of politicians and farmers of the region. The leaders also reported that they collaborated with the Military Police to allow the dissident group to be removed from the land.

Since the 1980s, the Xukuru have been fighting against a project designed to create a structure for the Our Lady of Thanks Sanctuary, located inside the indigenous land, to become a religious tourist site. For this reason, Funai, members of the local Catholic Church and politicians of the region began to try and divide the people and to sponsor violent acts against the Xukuru.

On many occasions, government agencies in charge of indigenous issues were warned by traditional Xukuru leaders that the interests of political and economic groups which were alien to the indigenous people were creating a serious internal conflict among them.

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