8,000 Indian Families Risk Starvation in Brazil

Brazil's Guarani Indian children eat at school Since the beginning of the year, about 110,000 Brazilian families have not been receiving basic food baskets in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, including 8,000 indigenous families. Because they have no land to grow food crops, these food baskets are the main source of food for most of this population.

To protest against this measure taken by André Puccinelli (Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement), the new governor of the state, the Coordination of Social Movements (CMS), the Regional West Office 1 of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB) and indigenous leaders have stage demonstrations in Campo Grande, capital of the state.

At the Legislative Assembly of Mato Grosso do Sul, indigenous leaders reported the evil consequences of suspending the distribution of the food baskets, which range from starving children to affecting their health.

Speeches were made by representatives of unions and social movements, a representative of Guarani teachers, and Eliseu Guarani, from Kurusu Ambá, a tekohá (traditional land) where the problems caused by the lack of food are aggravated by the recent eviction of Guarani from it by private militia after the land was reoccupied by them.

The 70 families that were evicted from the land are now camped alongside a highway and depend on the distribution of basic food baskets to have anything to eat. Seven representatives attended the meeting.

Before the audience, the demonstrators were prevented from accessing the Parque dos Poderes area, where the head offices of different state agencies are located. They were only allowed to enter the area after representatives intervened.

At the headquarters of the state government, the demonstrators were received by the state secretaries for Social Security and Justice and Safety. Both of them tried to explain that the distribution of basic food baskets had been suspended because of cuts in the state budget.

These cuts in turn were caused by the late payment of an installment of the state debt with the Federal Government, and they did not suggest in any way that the governor would review his decision. However, even before the governor was sworn into office he had announced the cut.

Governor André Puccinelli went to Brasí­lia today to have meetings with the minister of Social Development and Hunger Combat, Patrus Ananias, and with representatives of Funai and other agencies to ask the federal government to take on the task of distributing the food baskets.

The group sent a letter to the governor asking him to do something about problems caused by the lack of land for indigenous people in the state also.

"We need to have appropriate channels to propose structural solutions for the hunger problem. The state of Mato Grosso do Sul is also responsible, because it was this state that granted to farmers title deeds to lands where indigenous people lived," said Egon Heck, coordinator of the Indianist Missionary Council office in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.




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