Brazilian police occupy Amazon indigenous reserve

Brazilian federal police May 5 occupied the indigenous reserve of Raposa/Serra do Sol, in the Amazonian state of Roraima, after 10 indigenous people were shot in an attack a day earlier. Three of the wounded were in serious condition and had to be taken to hospitals in the state capital, Boa Vista. The incident happened as the Brazilian supreme court was reviewing a government decision to expel invaders from the reserve.

The attack occurred when a group of armed men in the service of estate owner Paulo Cesar Quartiero, who accuses the indigenous people of invading his lands, tried to remove the natives off the landowner’s property. Quartiero said: “They invaded the estate. My men went there to ask them to leave, but they were met with arrows. There was a clash, and some people were injured.”

But one of the representatives of the Macuxi nation, Joao Ribeiro, said Quartiero’s men did not seek to negotiate and immediately opened fire. “It was all very fast, and they were shooting even as they arrived,” Ribeiro said.

Leaders of the indigenous community expressed impatience over the supreme court decision and said they intended to begin expelling non-indigenous people on their own. “We will enforce the law with our own hands. We will fight to the last man,” said Vanildo Silva, also of the Macuxi nation.

Rice producers in the Raposa/Serra do Sol reserve have refused to leave the area, despite a decree signed by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2005, which titled 1.7 million hectares to indigenous peoples. Last month, a police operation to remove non-indigenous people had to be cancelled due to a preliminary decision by the supreme court. Roraima Governor Jose de Anchieta Filho said a final court decision will be made “within the next 15 or 20 days.” The governor is against granting indigenous people land covering over 46% of Roraima. (DPA, May 6)

Owners of six big rice farms and other settlers have held angry protests at the court. Quartiero, who is the mayor of the town of Pacaraima where he has vast plantation holdings, was taken into custody May 7. (AP, May 7)

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