Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency FUNAI issued a statement July 5 affirming the validity of a May 2010 ruling of the First Regional Federal Tribunal in Mato Grosso state that called for the return of usurped lands of the Xavante indigenous people. FUNAI demarcated the 165,000 hectares as Xavante indigenous territory in 1992, but ranchers and soy producers now in possession of the lands in question challenged creation of the reserve, to be called Marãiwatsede, near the towns of Cuiabá and Alto Boa Vista. The Xavante were pushed from their lands by Brazil’s military government in 1966, and the Marãiwatsede area is now one of the most completely deforested areas of the Amazon Basin. When Xavante led by chief Damião Paridzané held protests at the Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development last month to pressure for return of their lands, local ranchers in the Marãiwatsede territory launched an uprising, blocking roads and burning bridges.
Brazil’s government pledged to return the usurped Xavante lands at the 1992 Earth Summit, but 20 years later has failed to follow through. Paridzané said in a letter delivered to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff: “The illegal soy production and cattle ranching in our sacred land are a shame upon our country.” (Diário de Cuibá, July 15; Outras Mídias, July 10; Maraiwatsede blog, July 5; Survival International, June 29; Maraiwatsede blog, June 21)