Indians Under the Gun in Brazil

    Potiguara Indian leaders went to Brasília after being threatened
    and attacked by the owners of
    a refinery whose land they
    have occupied. The Indians say that they own that territory.
    According to Caboquinho, the leader of the Potiguara people,
    the situation is very tense and the Indians fear for
    their lives.

    by:
    Cimi

     

    A committee made up of 16 Potiguara leaders went to Brasília looking for ways of straightening out the situation of
    their lands. The traditional Potiguara territory covers 57,600 hectares. In 1984, 21,600 hectares were demarcated leaving
    36,000 hectares outside the demarcation zone.

    In 1996, Funai, the National Indian Foundation, identified a further 7,300 hectares, called the Monte-Mór
    indigenous land, as land traditionally occupied by the Potiguara, and in 1999, the then Minister of Justice, Renan Calheiros, asked
    for a new study.

    Since that time, nothing has been done and the process has come to a halt in Funai. The sugar cane plantation
    belonging to the Japungú Refinery is to be found in this area, which has led to several conflicts in the region.

    On September 4, around 450 Potiguara families from the Monte-Mór reservation reoccupied part of the area of the
    Japungú Refinery, in the municipality of Marcação, in Paraíba. After trying to come to an agreement with the refinery, the
    indigenous people decided not to leave the area. The Potiguara went to Brasília for an audience with the Public Prosecutor, Funai,
    the Justice Ministry and members of parliament in an attempt to find a solution.

    September 17, they met with the Deputy Public Prosecutor, Armanda Figueirêdo, when they explained the situation
    of the territory and revealed that they had received several threats from the owners of the refinery. According to
    Caboquinho, the leader of the Potiguara people, the situation is very tense and the refinery owners have attacked the indigenous
    people several times.

    On September 9 they were taken by surprise when they heard gunfire in the middle of the night. "They set fire to the
    sugar plantation and shot at us, but our people are very organized and certain of what they want, which is to reoccupy the land
    that is in the hands of the refinery owners", he said.

    According to the leader, the Indian committee went to Brasília with the aim of speeding up the demarcation process,
    which has been put on hold since the time the new study was commissioned in 1999.

    "We have already had a meeting with the director responsible for Land Issues at Funai who will proceed with our
    case". The Potiguara have made a proposal so that an outcome is reached as soon as possible, deciding that the creation of a
    new Technical Group is the most feasible solution at the moment. "The Director responsible for Land Issues has made
    contact with Sidnei Peres, the anthropologist responsible for the first two reports, and has pledged to set up a new Technical
    Group to carry out a new land study, guaranteeing that by the end of the year the process will be in the hands of the Justice
    Ministry," Caboquinho stated.

    It is not only demarcation that is essential to the people, the leaders claim. They hope that with the straightening out
    of the land situation, compensation will be paid to the non-indigenous people that are in the area.

    Taking advantage of their visit to Brasília, the Potiguara also demanded an increase in Funai’s budget for next year
    and economic projects so that the people can sustain themselves.

    Terenas Meet Attorney General

    A delegation of 50 indigenous people from the nine communities of the Terena people, from the Buriti indigenous
    land, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, met the Federal Attorney General, Cláudio Fontelles, to request a solution to the
    difficulties created after reoccupation.

    During the meeting, the leaders of the people spoke of the difficult situation in which they find themselves—3000
    people are confined to an area of 2090 hectares—and wanting to know the Attorney’s position. Fontelles asked for a further
    ten days to study the case and present a proposal.

     

    Cimi is Brazil’s Indianist Missionary Council, an organization linked to CNBB, National Conference of Brazilian
    Bishops. You can get in touch with them by sending an email to
    cimi@embratel.net.br

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