Brazil: Guarani threaten mass suicide?

The UK’s Daily Mail this week, citing a letter from indigenous leaders obtained via Brazil’s Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), reported that en entire tribe of the Guarani people—consisting of 50 men, 50 women and 70 children—have threatened to commit collective suicide if they are evicted from their traditional lands. The Guarani-Kaiowa tribe are currently camped on lands claimed by a rancher in Brazil’s southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and local Judge Henrique Bonachela upheld a petition by the rancher to have the Guarani evicted—dimsissing their claim that they have lived on the land for centuries and it includes ancient burial grounds. Bonachela reportedly imposed a fine equivalent to $240 for every day that the tribe remains on the land, on the banks of the Rio Joguico. The Spanish news agency EFE later cited both CIMI and the Brazilian indigenous affairs agency FUNAI as denying that the Guarani-Kaiowa had threatened mass suicide. A statement on the CIMI website says there are “different interpretations” of the letter issued by the Guarani-Kaiowa community, called  Kue Pyelito, in which they denounced the eviction as tantamount to their “collective death.” (EFE, CIMI, Oct. 25; Daily Mail, Oct. 24; Combate ao Racismo Ambiental, Oct. 10)

CIMI continues to document threats, harassment and violence against the Guarani-Kaiowa by the hired pistoleros of the ranchers in the region. A report this week notes that one Kue Pyelito resident was waylaid and gang-raped by eight gunmen this week, while on her way to a market in the nearby town of Iguatemi. (CIMI, Oct. 26)
Last month, indigenous people from 16 different ethnicities in Mato Grosso state—including the Cinta-Largas, EnawenĂŞ-NawĂŞ, Nambikwara, Haliti-Pareci, Irantxe, Rikbatsa, Kayabi, Umutina and Bakairi—blocked roads, halting traffic on major thoroughfares, to protest Brazil’s new Decree 303, which they call a dangerous roll-back of indigenous rights.

Decree 303, issued in July by the Office of the Solicitor General and having force of law until Brazil’s congress intervenes against it, permits  military operations, consturciton of roads and hydro-electic dams, development of mining projects or any other activity deemed of a “strategic nature” on indigneous lands—all without the consent of impacted communities. The decree also calls for the virtual “scrapping” of FUNAI, removing its authority over development projects on indigenous lands. Indiegnous leaders charge that Decree 303 contravenes international agreements that Brazil is bound by, such as ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (Intercontinental Cry, Oct. 5; Earth Peoples Blog, Sept. 1)