A group of some 3,000 indigenous people gathering to mark the official opening of a new reserve are trapped in the remote village of Maturca, Roraima state, after its bridge burned down. Authorities say settlers opposed to the creation of the Raposa Serra do Sol reserve deliberately burned the bridge, which is the only access into Maturuca. Brazil agreed to create the reservation in April, despite strong opposition from local landowners and settlers. Some 3,500 people had gathered at Maturuca for the celebrations. (BBC, Sept. 23)
Until the bridge is rebuilt, only the government officials who are attending the event can depart from the locale, by plane. Roraima’s secretary of Indigenous Rights, Adriano Nascimento said he believes that those responsible for burning the bridge were also behind the arson of the Raposa Serra do Sul Training and Cultural Center on Sept. 17. “I think they were the same people who set fire to the mission. But the state government does not accept this.”
The president of the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), Mércio Pereira Gomes, the Army Engineers’ Batallion has been activated to rebuilt the bridge. “I believe that the buses that brought people to the region will be able to leave tomorrow.”
Some 15 thousand Indians live in the reserve, comprising 1.74 million hectares. The decree creating the reserve establishes a period of 12 months for non-Indians to vacate the area. Despite the tense atmosphere, Pereira Gomes says that the celebration will not be interrupted. “The indigenous peoples are relying on the authority of the state government. The state has the duty to identify and punish the guilty parties.” (Agencia Brasil, Sept. 22)
See our last post on the indigenous struggle in Brazil.