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Despite Killings and Intimidation Brazilian Indians Get More Land

Guajajara Indians in Maranhão state, Brazil On October 31st, the reports of the technical group in charge of reviewing the bounds of the Bacurizinho indigenous land, belonging to the Guajajara people in the state of Maranhão, in Brazil's Northeast, were published in the Brazilian Diário Oficial (Official Gazette). 

The report declared 134,000 hectares as traditional indigenous land. Since 2001, when the reviewing process began, two people were murdered in conflicts with farmers who are against the review.

About 4,000 Guajajara people live in the land. It is located near the municipality of Grajaú and was confirmed in the 1980s as an 82,432-hectare area. As a result, various ancient indigenous villages were not included in it.

The process of reviewing the bounds of the land was interrupted in 2004, when the Working Group (GT) delivered the reports to the National Foundation for Indigenous People (Funai). On June 2006, a federal court ruled that Funai was to resume the procedures in compliance with a request from the Federal Prosecutor's Office.

Because a large part of this area was not included in the first demarcation, the invaders saw a chance to invade it. The region was almost entirely taken by companies exploiting plaster, charcoal kilns, and irregular soybean, eucalyptus and sugarcane plantations.

The groups interested in the area tried to put an end to the review process. They are accused of hiring people to commit different crimes against the indigenous people.

In 2003, chief Zequinha Mendes was run over by a car and died in this action and the community believes it was a deliberate criminal act. In 2004, a group of armed people invaded one of the villages located in the area.

In 2005, six armed men invaded a village, killed its chief, João Guajajara, 70, raped his sixteen year old daughter and shot one of his sons in the head. In February 2007, a group invaded another village and set 30 houses on fire.

After long years of struggle, the publication of the WG reports is a victory for the Guajajara people and for the organizations which support them. A 90-day deadline was established for people who oppose the review process to file their arguments against it.

Cimi

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