Mother or Four, Indian, 22, Hangs Herself Out of Desperation

In the morning of October 11, Plácida de Oliveira and Teresa Murilha, two Indian women, left their village, Passo Piraju, in Porto Cambira, state of Mato Grosso do Sul, to go to the municipality of Dourados to request legal assistance from Funai (National Indian Foundation) to get a legal grant provided to dependants of people in jail who do not receive any remuneration from the social security system.

The husbands of both of them and seven other members of the Kaiowá Guarani people in Passo Piraju were arbitrarily arrested on April 4 of this year after reacting against a raid of police officers, dressed in plain clothes, in their community on April 1st without a warrant.

The raid was carried out regardless of the fact that, in February of this year, a working group of the Public Safety Secretariat made up of representatives of public safety agencies of the state, of Funai, of Funasa, of the City Hall of Dourados, and of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, determined that any police actions inside conflict areas occupied by indigenous people should involve Funai officials through the Sucuri (Anaconda) Operation.

The Passo Piraju community occupies a 60-hectare area, and although its members have been claiming their rights and protesting against acts of violence for years, no steps for identifying the land have been taken so far.

On the day that Teresa and Plácida went to the city, basic sets of food products were distributed in their community under the hunger combat program. Because only the beneficiaries themselves can receive the basic food baskets after signing a receipt, nobody could receive them for Plácida and Teresa.

Knowing how the two depend on this benefit, community members asked the government agents to give them the food baskets or wait until they arrived. However, inspectors of the Electoral Court who monitor the distribution of the food baskets during election periods did not authorize the delivery.

The whole community was outraged when its members saw that the two women would be left without any food. But this is what the law determines, these are rules to avoid frauds or the use of these food baskets for electoral purposes or for buying votes.

The two women were desperate when they returned to the city and were informed that the food baskets had been distributed while they were absent from the village.

The situation is very difficult in Passo Piraju. After the arrests in April, the community felt pressured and scared with the way they were reported by newspapers of the region. Many community members left the village after being discriminated by people living in the city and because they were tired of being threatened constantly.

People who used to buy the small crop surpluses of the community in the village have not been doing so any longer. Without money, the Indians have no means to buy basic hygiene products that are not included in the food baskets.

Without men in the village to repair their huts, those that are falling apart as a result of the heavy rains that characterize this season, are not being rebuilt, and at least one-third of them collapsed. 

Plácida, a woman who is about 50 years old and is more used to facing so much suffering, decided simply to accept the situation. Teresa, a 22-year-old young woman, mother of four children, the oldest of whom is seven years old and the youngest one six months, refused to accept it.

After knowing that she would not receive the food basket, Teresa didn’t know what to do. She requested advice from the elders, but they did not bring her any hope in practice.

Without food to give to her children and living in a hut without protection from the rain, she told Mrs. Plácida that she had decided to leave the village. Mrs. Plácida asked her to stay, but she had already made up her mind.

In the morning of last Friday, the oldest son of Teresa ran through the community crying for help. Teresa was found by her relatives in what had been left of her hut hanging a little one meter above the ground from a rope tied to her neck and to a wood that supported the roof, without tiles, of her hut.

According to the report called "Violence against indigenous peoples in Brazil", 68 members of the Guarani Kaiowá people committed suicide between 2003 and 2005 in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

The report mentions that the main cause of these deaths is the lack of land. According to studies carried out by the National Foundation for Indigenous People (Funai), over 100 Guarani Kaiowá traditional lands are still waiting their demarcation procedures to start.

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