from Weekly News Update on the Americas
MATO GROSSO DO SUL: GUARANI-KAIOWA EVICTED
On Dec. 15 some 100-200 Brazilian federal police agents, backed by a helicopter and armed with tear gas and rifles that fire rubber bullets, forcibly evicted more than 500 Guarani-Kaiowa indigenous people from their homes on the officially recognized 9,300-hectare territory of Nande Ru Marangatu, in Antonio Joao municipality, Mato Grosso do Sul state. The community did not put up physical resistance to the eviction. After police and human rights observers left the scene, the ranchers who claim the land arrived and set fire to the community’s homes.
One of the evicted Guarani men described the scene to Survival International: “Helicopters flew very low over the area. Children were screaming and crying. Three people fainted and were taken to hospital. Everyone was crying and standing on the side of the road with nothing in the baking sun. We have nothing to eat. The ranchers when the police weren’t there burned all our food, our clothes and documents. They burned 15 houses. The only things we have left are the clothes on our bodies.” A Guarani-Kaiowa woman who was six months pregnant became startled by the low-flying helicopter, and fell down and suffered a miscarriage. Two journalists from Netherlands state television were arrested during the eviction.
The government sought to relocate the Guarani-Kaiowa to a 26-hectare section of the territory, but community leaders say that plot is a swamp, unfit for human habitation or crop cultivation. The evicted families have instead begun setting up makeshift homes along the highway, where they are unprotected from the rainy weather. They are surviving on donated food. Antonio Joao mayor Junei Marques said he will propose to the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI) that the Guarani-Kaiowa be housed temporarily on land belonging to the army.
For years the Guarani-Kaiowa barely survived on a nine-hectare plot—much too small for their traditional subsistence agriculture–while campaigning for the return of their territory. On March 29 of this year, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva finally signed off on the demarcation of Nande Ru Marangatu, and the community spent the subsequent months planting crops on the land. But the Supreme Federal Tribunal subsequently issued a preliminary decision suspending the demarcation, and a court ruling ordered the land returned to the ranchers who claim ownership of it. (Survival International press release, Dec. 16; Adital, Brazil, Dec. 16; Agencia Brasil, Dec. 16, 17)
Meanwhile, 29 people have been detained in Operation Rio Pardo, Brazil’s first ever investigation into the genocide of indigenous peoples. The former governor of Mato Grosso state, Wilmar Peres de Farias, and former elite police commander Roberto de Almeida Gil are among the public figures accused in a plot by land grabbers and logging companies to eliminate the uncontacted Rio Pardo tribe. Speaking from the city of Cuiaba, public prosecutor Mario Lucio Avelar told Survival he believed there were sufficient grounds to prosecute for genocide. In November Brazilian TV showed the first known images of the Rio Pardo tribe; no outsiders know who they are or what language they speak. FUNAI found camps inside the territory with land measuring equipment, and bombs and ammunition to intimidate the indigenous residents. Invaders admit they found 30 hurriedly abandoned indigenous shelters. (Survival International press release, Dec. 14)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 18
PARA: CONVICTIONS IN NUN’S MURDER
On Dec. 10, a jury in the northern Brazilian city of Belem, capital of Para state, found Rayfran das Neves Sales and Clodoaldo Carlos Batista guilty of the murder on Feb. 12, 2005 of US-born activist nun and land rights defender Dorothy Stang in a rural area of Para. Sales, who shot Stang, was sentenced to 27 years in prison, while Batista was sentenced to 17 years for his complicity in the killing. Sales will be retried, since under Brazilian law anyone sentenced to more than 20 years in prison gets an automatic right to a retrial. Sales claimed he acted in self-defense, saying he believed the 73-year old nun was reaching for a gun when she put her hand in her bag to pull out her bible. Batista claimed there was no plan to murder Stang. Another three men, including landowner Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, are expected to go on trial sometime in 2006 for the murder; Moura is accused of having offered 50,000 reais (about $22,200) to Sales and Batista to murder Stang. (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Dec. 11 from AP; Miami Herald, Dec. 11 from wire services)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 11
Weekly News Update on the Americas
See also our last update on land struggles in Brazil:
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution