At Least 40 Indians Murdered in Brazil in 2006. Most of Them by Other Indians

A preliminary survey of murders of indigenous people in 2006 carried out by Brazilian Indianist Missionary Council (Cimi) shows that 40 indigenous people were murdered during the year in Brazil.

Twenty of the homicides took place in the western state of Mato Grosso do Sul. In the state of Bahia, there were four murder cases. In the state of Minas Gerais, three deaths were registered.

There were two deaths in the states of Rondônia, Alagoas, and Mato Grosso. In the states of Roraima, Maranhão, Espí­rito Santo, Ceará, Acre, Pará, and Pernambuco, one homicide was registered in each of them.

Cimi believes that the analysis of the numbers, motives, perpetrators, and weapons used shows that the public authorities – supported by society at large – must urgently and once and for all organize their actions in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul based on serious studies, which enable the population to become aware of the reality and lead to lasting solutions.

The figure for homicides is still preliminary, as it will still be complemented with information collected by the regional offices of the organization, which are collecting data to be published in the Report on Violence Against Indigenous Peoples in Brazil in 2006, which is scheduled to be published in April. In 2005, 43 homicide victims were identified.

The survey is based on information provided by indigenous communities and on reports published in newspapers all over Brazil. Even if the data is distorted as a result of the larger coverage of murders in some states, Cimi believes that this possibility does not mean that less attention should be given to the situation in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

Numbers

The data on the perpetrators of the murders show that, in these 40 deaths, 18 indigenous people were initially accused of committing them. Eighteen others could not be identified based on the information collected.

And in four deaths the accused were non-indigenous people. In the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, the number of deaths of which indigenous people and non-identified people were accused is the same – 10 each.

The weapons used in the murders reveal the type of violence involved: in 15 of them a knife was used, in 3 of them a club was used, and in another one a heavy object was used.

Seven deaths were caused by firearms and five others resulted from fights. In nine of the cases, the reports which were published do not allow one to identify the weapon that was used.

The excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs is also mentioned in reports of the cases. The people accused of committing one of the murders in the state of Bahia mentioned that "divine motivations" had led a father to be killed by two 23 and 25 years old youths.

Amongst all the homicides, two were directly caused by land conflicts, according to information provided by indigenous people: one in the state of Bahia, among the Tupinambá people, and another one in the state of Pará, among the Kayapó.

Analysis

As published in the book Direitos Humanos no Brasil (Human Rights in Brazil) in 2006, Cimi still believes that "the data show that internal tensions experienced by indigenous communities are causing imbalances in the internal relations between indigenous people, leading to fights, facilitating the consumption of alcohol and drugs, and causing murders within the communities themselves."

But the consolidation of a trend identified in previous years, namely, of murders being committed by indigenous people with apparently simple motivations, such as disagreements and fights of couples, besides deaths among families, deserves a more careful analysis.

The historical confinement of Guarani and Terena populations in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, aggravated by a more intense exploitation of areas in the region as soybean prices rise and by the extremely low number of demarcations of indigenous areas, is a well-known cause. But other factors must be considered.

What is not acceptable in a situation like this one is to waste time with discussions that don't lead to practical solutions. Therefore, it seems to us that the public authorities and society at large must consider, urgently, the following aspects:

– Are the actions being carried out by the State in the region reasonable, considering that high murder rates continue?

– What are the causes and actual paths of the internal violence?

– What are the actual living conditions of these populations: how do they make a living? Do they have jobs? Are they unemployed? Do they have land to grow crops?

– What is the population density in these lands? What kind of pressure does this situation place on the environment? What consequences does it generate for the social organization of indigenous people? What does it cause in terms of family tensions?

– How are young people living in indigenous communities? What are their prospects as farmers or professionals? What are their prospects in terms of setting up a family? Where will they live with their new families? What kind of pressure does this situation generate?

– What are the conditions of the soil in these indigenous lands? What can be produced there? How can the problem of lack of space for growing food crops be solved?

– Is there a link between murders and suicides, which are another mechanism for internalizing the external conflicts faced by indigenous communities, combined with ethnical-cultural features?

In the state where news of homicides in the country are concentrated, three cities stand out in terms of number of cases: Seven in Amambaí­ (Limão Verde and Amambaí­ lands); Three in Japorã and three in Dourados (in the city, in the Bororó and Jaguapiru villages). Amambaí­ and Dourados are known for having some of the most populated land areas where the Guarani-Kaiowá live and one of the lowest land-inhabitant ratios in all indigenous areas: less than one hectare per person, as was highlighted by anthropologist Lucia Helena Rangel in the Violence Report published in 2006 by Cimi.

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