Brazil: Guarani occupy port

On Dec. 12, nearly 300 indigenous Tupinikim and Guarani people and supporters occupied the Portocel port facilities used by the Aracruz Celulose wood pulp company at Aracruz, in Brazil’s Espirito Santo state. The protesters are demanding that the Brazilian government fulfill its constitutional obligation by demarcating the traditional territory of the Tupinikim and Guarani. The company has taken over more than 11,000 hectares of indigenous land. In February 2006, after federal police violently ejected the Tupinikim and Guarani people who had retaken their land, Justice Minister Marcio Thomaz Bastos promised to demarcate the territory as soon as the government’s National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI) approved it. FUNAI approved the demarcation last Sept. 12, but Bastos has not yet signed it. Bastos is due to leave the government at the end of January 2007.

On Dec. 13, Aracruz Celulose instructed some 1,000 of its employees and contractors to eject the indigenous protesters from the port. A conflict ensued, and workers attacked protesters; several people were injured. The Aracruz Celulose workers left the port around 5pm, with threats to return the next day. Around 7 PM, the indigenous protesters ended their occupation of the port after meeting with FUNAI representatives, who promised that Tupinikim and Guarani representatives would be able to meet with Justice Minister Bastos on Dec. 18.

The protest actions of the Tupinikim and Guarani people have the support and participation of Brazilian social organizations including the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST). Some 60 students from the University of Espirito Santo and the Native Brigade occupied the state government building for a few hours in support of the Tupinikim and Guarani demands. Solidarity actions were also held at the Brazilian consulate in New York, and support petitions were handed in to the Brazilian consulates in Germany and Norway. (Indymedia, Dec. 14; Federation of Organizations for Social and Educational Assistance-Espirito Santo, Dec. 13, 21; Gazeta On Line, Dec. 12; Terra Brasil, Dec. 14)

On Dec. 19, after waiting for more than four hours in front of the Ministry of Justice building in Brasilia, 18 representatives of the Tupinikim and Guarani (seven chiefs and 11 leaders) left the site without having been allowed to meet with Bastos or anyone else at the ministry. Several weeks earlier, Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had lunch with the president of Aracruz Celulose, Carlos Alberto Aguiar, and Brazil’s National Development Bank granted the company a loan of 595 million reais ($278 million) to expand its cellulose production in Espirito Santo and buy more lands to plant eucalyptus.

On Dec. 20, a federal judge ruled that Aracruz must stop its racist and defamatory campaign against the indigenous communities. The company must retract all of its negative publicity questioning the indigenous people and their way of life, the judge ordered. (FASE-ES, Dec. 21)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 24

See our last posts on Brazil and the Guarani struggle.