Brazilian Guarani Indians Say They Were Entrapped by Landowners

A commission of 15 representatives of organizations, social movements and unions visited last week, a camp of the Guarani who were removed from a land that they had reoccupied in an episode that led to the death of a 70-year-old Indian on January 9.

The action also led to the disappearance of two young people in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. In the testimonies provided to the committee, the Guarani reported that the arrest of their main leader in the reoccupation action and of three other men was a "trap."

Leader Ortiz Lopes reported how the Indians were arrested, under charges of having stolen a tractor on January 8. "The farmer from the Madama farm arrived there, talked to the leaders, and told us we could use the tractor.

"The leader of the reoccupation was using the tractor to bring food to the community, and then the police appeared. It was a trap," he said. After the episode, leader Francisco Fernandes and many other Guarani were arrested. Four men are still in prison.

When asked about other details of the alleged robbery reported by the press on January 9, Ortiz replied that the Guarani hadn't had any opportunity to tell their version of what actually happened:

"They only heard the version of non-indigenous people. The version of the indigenous people was not made public. What they published is not true, there were no hostages," he said.

The investigations being carried out by the Federal Police on the death of Churetê Lopes have not been completed so far. Another investigation carried out by the Civil Police has been concluded.

Based on it, the Public Prosecutor's Office (MPE) in the state charged the four Indians with having stolen agricultural equipment. If the charges are accepted by a state court, the Indians will stand trial.

The commission accompanied relatives of the men being kept in prison in the city of Amambaí­ to visit their relatives. Besides the difficulties they faced to go to the city, the Indians were almost prevented from entering the police station because they did not have identity documents with their photographs. The problem was that their documents were burned with all their belongings after they were removed from the lands they had reoccupied.

Once the identification difficulties were solved, the group was allowed to pay the visit. "Nobody of the men complained of any physical violence, but they all said that they are being treated in a disrespectful way and that they were lured into a trap, and they insist that they must be released from prison and asked me to take care of their case," said Saulo Feitosa, the vice president of Cimi (Indianist Missionary Council) who was a member of the commission.
 
Joana, the mother of Natalino, a 16 years old adolescent, said that her son has been missing since January 8. The adolescent was a member of the group that was arrested under charges of theft. That night, women and children were released and the men were put in a cell in a police station.

According to the mother, there was no room for the boy in the ambulance that was used to bring the people who were released back to the Taquaperi village. It was the last time she saw her son, in front of the police station.

Another 14 years old boy is also missing. He was seen for the last time when the indigenous people were being removed from the land they had reoccupied by an armed group wearing masks which arrived in vans and a bus.

The Guarani-Kaiowá leader Ortiz Lopes, who was in Campo Grande last week for a press conference organized by local social movements, also explained the reasons that led about 50 families to reoccupy the Kurusu Ambá tekoha (traditional land):

"We decided to reoccupy the area when we managed to bring together old relatives who used to live there. We were facing many difficulties," he said.

The about 36 families that tried to reoccupy the lands are now camped along the MS-289 highway. According to Ortiz Lopes, the group expects the National Foundation for Indigenous People (Funai) to set up a technical group to identify the Kurusu Ambá territory.

 

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