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Brazil’s Latest Landless: The Indians


Brazil's Latest Landless: The Indians

Federal Police officers helped by three army helicopters
removed some 700 Indians from a
Bahia indigenous land
they had taken three years ago. The indigenous people—many
of them were
small children—were put in plastic tents by
a road where they were left without any assistance.

by:
 Cimi

 

July 12, a Saturday, the Brazilian Federal Police removed about 700 Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe Indians from seven areas in
the regions of Água Vermelha, Mundo Novo and Taquari in compliance with a repossession judicial decision. The farms
that were reoccupied by this indigenous people in 2000 and 2001 are located inside the 54,100 hectares of the Caramuru
Catarina—Paraguaçu indigenous land, located in the state of Bahia.

The action was carried out by a group of 100 heavily armed Federal Police officers divided in three teams and three
army helicopters. The indigenous people who were removed from the farms were put in plastic tents by a road near the farms,
where they were left without any assistance whatsoever. The number of children among them is high, among whom many have
caught diseases by now. It is raining heavily in the region and it is cold, but the people remain strongly determined to continue
to struggle to return to their lands.

July 14, a delegation of the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe met with the Attorney General in Ilhéus, state of Bahia. During the
meeting, the indigenous leaders reported the situation their people have been facing since they were removed from their land and
the bullying and threats they have been receiving from farmers and their bodyguards. According to the indigenous leaders,
the farmers blocked two streets in Pau-Brazil and threw a party to celebrate their "victory." The leaders asked the General
Attorney’s Office to take appropriate steps to prevent the threats from becoming concrete actions.

In a note, the a team of the Indianist Missionary Council (Cimi)— an agency linked to Brazil’s National Conference
of Catholic Bishops—in Itabuna said that the situation faced by these indigenous people is unbearable. "It is outrageous
and repugnant to see, on the one hand, the long time it is taking for the courts to judge the actions filed to nullify title deeds
held by the farmers, which could put an end to these conflicts, and on the other hand the speedy execution of actions running
counter to the rights of the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe," the note says. The team was there during the whole process of removing the
indigenous people from their lands, together with representatives of the Child Pastoral of the Diocese of Itabuna.

According to Sebastião Moreira, Cimi’s deputy secretary, the removal of the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe from their lands is
an act of violence against the legitimate owners of these lands.

Xakriabá Denounce Dam

Meanwhile, the Xakriabá people, the largest indigenous people in the state of Minas Gerais, who live in the
municipality of São João das Missões, is outraged with the environmental, economic, cultural and health damages caused by a dam
built by Companhia de Desenvolvimento do Vale do São Francisco—CODEVASF—in the 1980s, directly affecting the
Barra do Sumaré village, located in the Xakriabá indigenous land.

The indigenous people report that all that the dam did was bring problems to them. Agriculture, which constitutes
the main economic activity of the Xakriabá people, was affected by the dam, which flooded large areas of arable land.
Today, 15 years after the dam was built, the indigenous people are feeling its strong socio-environmental impacts. Outraged,
the Xakriabá want the agencies responsible for the construction of the dam to take steps to eliminate the problems caused
by it.

After getting organized, they began to control the dam, and are threatening to open its floodgates if nothing is done
to solve the problems they are facing. A meeting between the Xakriabá people and representatives of Funai (Indian
National Foundation), CODEVASF, Funasa (National Health Foundation), the City Hall of São João das Missões, the Office of
the Attorney General and organizations that support the indigenous cause was held on July 2 for the purpose of defining
urgent steps to be taken to ensure the survival and the physical, cultural and social integrity of the Xakriabá people.

The community reported that the maintenance of the dam is inappropriate and that they have not had any assistance
since it was built. As a solution, the agencies took on the commitment to suggest irrigation projects to the Ministry of
Agriculture, to improve the maintenance of the roads in the area for water trucks to reach it smoothly, and to build a water reservoir
with two or more spouts and equipped with an artesian well to supply water to the village of Barra do Sumaré.

The Xakriabá people hope that the commitments assumed by the organizations attending the meeting will be carried
out, otherwise they will open the floodgates of the dam.

Funai’s President Stays

After reports in the press that Eduardo Almeida, the current president of Funai, would be fired, the government
decided to keep him in the post. After a meeting with the minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, Eduardo Almeida denied
the alleged dismissal and said that he had not received any such notification.

In Cimi’s opinion, for as long as no indigenous policy is defined that truly contemplates the interests of indigenous
peoples, is based on the rights ensured by the Federal Constitution, and changes once and for all the integration-oriented posture
inherited from the military dictatorship, replacing people in key posts will be worthless.

While no such policy is available, clear political pressures will continue to be applied for questionable purposes and
Funai structures, both in terms of physical facilities and staff, will continue to be dismantled. No competitive public
examination has been held in the past 10 years for hiring new staff for the agency. In the 35 years since it was established, Funai had
30 different presidents.

 

This material was prepared by Cimi – Indianist Missionary Council. Wish to contact them? Then write
to cimi@embratel.net.br

 

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