War Operation Against Airstrip in Brazil

    
War Operation Against Airstrip in 
Brazil

    The Brazilian government has used war planes and helicopters
    to destroy an airstrip deep down in
    the Amazon Forest. The place
    was being used by drug traffickers and Farc guerrillas. Thousands
    of
    Indians from the area seem to be pleased with the action.
    Some of them had been kidnapped to fight with the Farc.

    by:
    Lima
    Rodrigues

     

    An airstrip in northern Brazil, which was built by a mining company in the 1980s, located just three kilometers from
    the Colombian border, has been destroyed by Brazilian authorities for a second time. The first time the landing field was
    blown up was in July 2002. It is located in an area known as Serra do Caparro, municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, 850
    kilometers from Manaus, and then, as now, was being used by Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas and
    drug traffickers.

    The 57 indigenous communities with 3,300 Indians, which occupy some 8,000 square kilometers of Indian reserve
    lands in the region, which is known as Cabeça do Cachorro (Dog’s Head) are pleased that the government has destroyed the
    airstrip near them. Besides the guerrillas and drugs shipments, it also was used as a base for prospectors who invade Indian
    lands in search of gold and gems.

    The second destruction of the airstrip took place on November 4 in a joint operation by the Federal Police and the
    Air Force. Ten airplanes were used: 4 AMX, 5 F-5 and a C-130 fuel tanker, besides helicopters. The new Brazilian Amazon
    Vigilance System (Sivam) was also used in the operation.

    The Indian group nearest the area are the Baniwas, a community of 232 individuals, who occupy a reserve of 450
    square kilometers. Members of the tribe informed Brazilian authorities that the airstrip was back in use and cooperated with
    the operation, known as Princesa dos Pampas (Pampas’s Princess), because they wanted to free themselves of the triple
    threat to their existence (drugs, guerrillas and prospectors).

    The head of the local Indian Affairs office (Funai), Edson Caldas Lopes, says that his work in the area is to protect
    the Indians from unwanted, illegal outsiders. He says that Funai’s main concern at the moment is with Farc guerrillas who
    have been known to kidnap Indians to make them fight with the guerrillas. Lopes says that with the destruction of the Caparro
    airstrip there are no longer any illegal landing fields in the Amazon region.

    The special coordinator of Frontier Operations of the Federal Police (PF), commissioner Mauro Spósito, speaking
    from the Baniwas Indian community of Tunuí, in São Gabriel da Cachoeira (AM), during the Operation, underscored that
    the partnership between the Federal Police and the Armed Forces has produced a drastic reduction in the number of drug
    arrests on the frontier. According to the commissioner, through the year 2000, the monthly average of cocaine seized on the
    frontier was one thousand kilos. The current average is around 250 kilos.

    Indian Games

    The Brazilian Indian Peoples’ games (Jogos dos Povos Indigenas), which are taking place in Palmas, capital city of
    the state of Tocantins, has turned into a spectacle of tribal art and artists as Indians from all over Brazil exhibit and sell
    their handicrafts.

    Palmas is located on the banks of the Tocantins River, an Amazon River tributary. The games are taking place at
    Praia da Graciosa Beach (Graciosa Beach). No less than 32 ethnic groups are participating and an average of 20,000
    spectators attend events daily.

    Although there are a number of Indian tribes who live in the vicinity of Palmas, there are others who are not so
    close. For example, the Wai-Wai, known for their excellent artwork, traveled by canoe for a week to arrive. And the Pataxó
    have decided to innovate by selling CDs with Indian music and songs.

     

    Lima Rodrigues works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government.
    Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br

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