Police close ‘militia’ following Guarani murders

Brazilian police have closed down a notorious security firm accused of killing at least two Guarani leaders, and brutally attacking hundreds more. Gaspem was described as a ‘private militia’ by public prosecutors who had called for the closure last year. Ranchers reportedly paid Gaspem 30,000 reais (US$ 13,400) each time it evicted Guarani Indians from their lands, which are now occupied by sugar cane and soya plantations, and cattle ranches. The company's owner, Aurelino Arce, was arrested in 2012 in connection with the murder of Guarani leader Nísio Gomes. For years, the Guarani have been appealing for the company to be shut down. A judge's decision to force the company to close marks a huge victory for Guarani communities across the central state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

Gaspem was just one of the companies providing ‘security’ services to ranchers. Others remain active, and politicians of Brazil's powerful anti-indigenous farming lobby have been encouraging ranchers to evict indigenous communities from their lands.

The residents of Pyelito Kuê community, who recently returned to a small part of their land, forcing out a rancher who had blockaded their houses, were attacked by gunmen on April 6. One woman was injured and many others were forced to flee. This was the third attack on this community in the last 30 days.

UK-baded Survival International is pressuring the government to map out all the Guarani's ancestral land and return it to the indigenous communities, as required under the Brazilian constitution and international law. (Survival International, April 8)