Fearful of Losing Land Brazilian Indians Take Their Case to London

Brazilians Indians from Raposa Serra do Sol, in Roraima state A video released by the Brazilian Indigenous Council of Roraima  (CIR) and Survival International, an organization that fights for human rights of tribal peoples, shows hired gunmen attacking a Makuxi Indian village in Brazil. The video was taken by CIR.

Although the Makuxi live in an officially recognized reserve, several powerful farmers are illegally occupying the territory and refusing to move. Gunmen hired by these farmers regularly attack the Indians. 

The Roraima state government has petitioned Brazil's Supreme Court asking it to let these farmers remain on Indian land. The Supreme is expected to rule within the next month.

The video shows gunmen firing assault rifles and throwing homemade bombs at an unarmed group of Makuxi. The gunmen are believed to be working for Paulo César Quartiero, who is also the mayor of a nearby town. Ten Makuxi were wounded in the attack, six of them children.

Mr Quartiero was arrested but has since been released. Police found a large cache of arms on his farm.

Survival International's director, Stephen Corry, commented, "After Survival released the photos of uncontacted Indians in Brazil three weeks ago, some people said that such tribes should be encouraged to join the mainstream society. This extraordinary video shows what they can expect the mainstream  will bring them – unremitting violence if they try to simply live on their own lands in peace."

London Appeal

Two Indians from Roraima, Jacir José de Souza, the founder of CIR, and Pierlangela Nascimento da Cunha, will be in London in the coming days when they will report their situation to the international community and make a plea for help to save their Amazon forest home. Amnesty International is also supporting this visit.

The Indians' tribes and their land are under attack from Brazilian farmers who have shot and wounded ten people, burned bridges and thrown a bomb into an Indian community.

The two Indians, from the Makuxi and Wapixana tribes, will meet with British parliament members at Westminster and officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ask for help.

The Makuxi, Wapixana and three other tribes have fought for decades to get the Brazilian government to protect their territory, known as Raposa Serra do Sol.

President Lula officially recognized the territory in 2005 – but a group of powerful farmers, who occupy a significant part of it, refuse to leave the area. The government of Roraima state supports the farmers, and is petitioning the Brazilian Supreme Court to give them a large piece of the Indians' land.

Research by Brazilian and US scientists shows that the most effective way to stop deforestation in the Amazon is to protect Indian lands, which occupy one fifth of the Brazilian Amazon.

Two famous British authors, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Evelyn Waugh, were inspired by Raposa Serra do Sol – a spectacular land of mountains, tropical forest, savannas and waterfalls – which features in their novels "The Lost World" and "A Handful of Dust."

According to Corry, "This is an absolutely crucial battle for Brazilian Indians and for the Amazon. If the farmers and politicians succeed in stealing Raposa Serra do Sol, Indians all over Brazil could see their land stolen too. We cannot allow this to happen."

CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) Brazil Program Manager Cecilia Iório said, "We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Indigenous Council of Roraima. If there is any setback in this symbolic case, it will be hard to believe that there is a real commitment from the Government to implement indigenous rights in Brazil."

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