The removal of invaders from the Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous land, in the state of Roraima, in the North of Brazil, has been delayed because of the refusal to leave of some rice farmers who occupy a large part of the indigenous peoples' cultivated area.
After knowing that the Operation Upatakon 3 – for removing invaders from the land – would be initiated, farmer Paulo César Quartiero and his employees have been increasingly threatening and attacking indigenous peoples.
On March 3, Quartiero's employees and other invaders blocked the BR-174 roadway near a bridge on the Cauamé river, which connects the municipality of Surumu to the Roraima state capital city of Boa Vista. They set the bridge on fire. The region is located inside an Indian land at a distance of 230 kilometers (143 miles) from the capital.
On the next day, the invaders blocked two other bridges providing access to the Surumu village with their trucks and tractors. On that occasion, Paulo César Quartiero, chair of the Rice Farmers' Association of the State, was arrested and taken to the headquarters of the Federal Police in the city of Boa Vista. He was released on the same day after paying a 500-real (US$ 296) bail.
According to information provided by the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR), all bridges providing access to the area haven'tÂ been rebuilt.
The tension in the region has been increasing. CIR Coordinators met with representatives of the Federal Police, the Federal Prosecutor's Office, Funai and the Managing Committee of the Office of the President of the Republic. According to Dionito Makuxi, this meeting was held with the aim of raising awareness on threats and situations of vulnerability facing indigenous communities.
In a note issued April 2, Brazil's Indianist Missionary Council (Cimi) supported the removal of invaders from the region: "Rice farmers and their leader (Paulo César Quartiero) have been ignoring the Federal Constitution, ignoring the laws, ignoring the demarcation and the official confirmation of the bounds of the indigenous land; ignoring all decisions they don't approve, whether issued by the Office of the President of the Republic or by the Supreme Federal Court; ignoring Funai and the deadlines it sets for them to leave the Raposa Serra do Sol land; ignoring the Federal Police in the state of Roraima."
Nailton Muniz, 62, from the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe people, was assaulted last April 1st at dawn. On that occasion, unknown people shot into the car he was in while traveling on a road connecting the area reoccupied by indigenous people in the region of the Serra das Alegrias mountain range to the municipality of Itaju do Colônia, located in the south region of the state of Bahia.
The chief believes that this was a reprisal for the fact that his community reoccupied part of their land, which had been invaded by farmers.
Besides Nailton and the driver, the sister of chief Maria José Muniz was also in the car. All of them survived. They were traveling to the Caramuru village, in the municipality of Pau Brasil, to attend a meeting held by Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe leaders.
According to a document submitted by chief Nailton to the Public Prosecutor's Office, the incident took place in the region invaded by farmers Beto Pacheco and Edvaldo Bastos Gomes. Still according to the document, gunmen at the service of farmers who invaded the indigenous land had also attacked other indigenous people already.
The conflict between farmers and indigenous people there is cyclical. The area that was reoccupied last week by Nailton's community is located in the region of the Serra das Alegrias mountain range, in the municipality of Itaju do Colônia, and it had been reoccupied on other occasions, the last of which in 2006.
Last year the invaders had been removed but, after a judicial decision, indigenous people who were living there had to leave the land. On that occasion, the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe Alcides Francisco Filho, known as Piba, was shot during a conflict with gunmen in a farm belonging to the invader Marcos Andrade, in Itaju do Colônia.
Since extensive cattle-raising activities are carried out in the region, farmers from Itaju do Colônia related to these activities have been organizing themselves and exerting strong political and economic pressure against the indigenous people's struggle for reoccupying their territory.
The traditional land of the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe people is a 54,100-ha area comprising the municipalities of Pau Brasil, Camacãn and Itaju do Colônia.
In the document submitted to the Public Prosecutor's Office, Nailton requested the Ministry of Justice to take appropriate measures for preventing other acts of violence.