Brazil: Guarani teacher missing after violence over ancestral lands

Amnesty International has called on Brazilian and Paraguayan authorities to redouble their efforts to find an indigenous teacher who has been missing since Oct. 30, following a violent eviction of activists on the border between the two nations. Fears for the life of the teacher, Rolindo Vera, have intensified following the discovery of the badly bruised body of his cousin and fellow indigenous teacher, Genivaldo Vera, in a nearby river.

The men were teaching literacy skills in the Aldeia Pirajuí—an extremely poor, 3,000-strong Indigenous community, blighted by poverty and high infant mortality. They were caught up in the violent land dispute that has seen several attacks on indigenous communities claiming land rights in recent months.

Twenty-five members of the Guarani Kaiowa indigenous people from the Aldeia Pirajuí, reoccupied farmlands they claim as ancestral near the Brazilian border town of Paranhos on Oct. 28. Two days later, as the indigenous group began erecting shelters, dozens of armed men arrived in a truck and began firing rubber bullets, sending women and children fleeing for their lives.

Community members say that they saw Genivaldo Vera being dragged off by the gunmen and Rolindo Vera fleeing into the bush. Genivaldo Vera’s body was found in a nearby stream on Nov. 7, although it was not identified until three days later.

An official forensic report has not yet been issued, but photos of the body released by the police to the family show that Genivaldo’s head had been shaven, his body had extensive bruises, and there were marks around wrists suggesting that he had been bound.

Indigenous villages on the other side of the border have reported suspicious movements in the immediate aftermath of the eviction, suggesting that Rolindo Vera may have been abducted and taken into Paraguay.

Amnesty International has called on the authorities to launch an immediate and thorough investigation into the events. “The ancestral lands that the community reoccupied should have already been identified with a view to future demarcation, but the farm lobby has repeatedly blocked the anthropological surveys necessary for identification,” the group charged.

Amnesty charges that private security companies are “effectively acting as illegal militias in the service of landowners or the agro-industry,” and have been involved in many human rights abuses in rural Brazil. (Amnesty International, Nov. 16)

See our last posts on Brazil, Paraguay the Guarani.

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