First a throng of more than 1,000 Indians took over, for ten days, a stretch of the Transmazônica Road in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon jungle, preventing all vehicles – most of them trucks carrying produce – from passing through the barrier made with logs and reinforced by the crowd presence.
Yesterday, October 11, the Indians relinquished their hold on the road and started letting vehicles go trough, but only after they had paid the Indian-imposed toll.
According to the Federal Highway Patrol, the fees being charged by the Indians are 60 reais (US$ 28) for trucks, 15 reais (US$ 7) for passenger cars and 10 reais (US$ 4.7) for motorcycles.
The human barrier is on km 135 of BR-240, close to the town of Apuí in the northern Brazilian state of Amazonas. The Indians live in an indigenous reservation known as Tenharim do Marmelo.
The Indians say they’ll keep on controlling the road until they get some US$ 400,000 that were promised them. They need this money to pay for several community projects as well as suppliers and all expenses related to planting.
The blockade has forced Apuí’s 30,000 residents to curtail their use of electric power since trucks carrying fuel were not being allowed into the city.
According to Daniel Reis, the worker on duty at the Rondônia’s Federal Highway Patrol Ciops (Operational Information Center), the policemen who were at the blockade have left now:
"The six federal highway patrolmen who were at the location guaranteeing the drivers’ and demonstrators’s safety went back to Porto Velho (Rondônia’s capital). They couldn’t do anything against the toll collection, among other things because they were six against one thousand demonstrators."
For Slowacki Assis, a director at the National Indian Foundation, the toll charge by the Indians was news. He commented that there was no regulation on charging tolls on Indian land, adding: "Strictly speaking, this is an illegal charge. I didn’t know about that, but in case this is confirmed, we will ask the Indian leaderships to end this practice."