Brazil: Tired of Waiting, Indians Invade Land

     Brazil: Tired of Waiting, Indians 
Invade Land

    Several Brazilian Indians
    communities began to occupy at the
    end of June an area on the banks of the Jauari river, in the
    Amazon. According to them, their act is a means to prevent rice
    farmers from contaminating their land. They say they have been
    trying to solve legally their land problems. In vain, however.
    by: Cimi

    The Indian communities of the Raposa, Serras, Baixo Cotingo and Surumu lands
    decided to occupy the banks of the Jauari river in an area located 180 kilometers
    from Boa Vista, in Amazon state of Roraima.

    They justified their act
    saying they were tired of waiting for a decision from the Brazilian government
    concerning the official confirmation of the bounds of the Raposa/Serra do
    Sol indigenous land. They also mentioned their concern about the environmental
    degradation caused by rice farmers.

    The Indians began to occupy
    the area June 30 as a means to prevent rice farmers from continuing to cause
    environmental degradation in indigenous lands.

    According to them, this
    situation has been repeatedly reported to the appropriate agencies, namely,
    Funai, the Public Prosecution Service, the Federal Police, and Ibama. They
    assure, however, that the authorities have done nothing.

    Over 300 indigenous people
    from villages located in the Raposa/Serra do Sol land affected by the pollution
    of rivers caused by the excessive use of pesticides in irrigated rice crops
    are taking part in the action.

    The largest rice farmer
    in the indigenous land, Paulo César Quartieiro, went to the area occupied
    by the indigenous people on June 29 to intimidate indigenous leaders when
    they were beginning to build houses/shelters at night on the banks of the
    river. After failing to intimidate them, he reported the situation to the
    Federal Police.

    Despite all the positive
    expectations in relation to the official confirmation of the bounds of the
    Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous land, the communities decided not to wait for
    the judgment of an appeal against a preliminary order issued by a federal
    court of Roraima, which was upheld by judge Selene Almeida, in order to exercise
    their constitutional rights. The Federal Administration has suggested that
    it will confirm the bounds of the land if the preliminary order is rejected.

    The delay in confirming
    the bounds of the Raposa/Serra do Sol land has allowed rice crops to be expanded
    and has caused irreparable damages to the environment and to the physical
    and cultural heritage of indigenous peoples. This situation can be attributed
    to the lack of concrete actions on the part of the Brazilian Government to
    ensure the territorial rights of indigenous people.

    The Indigenous Council
    of Roraima announced that they will take measures to avoid the occurrence
    of conflicts between the communities which decided to occupy the area in question
    and grabbers of federal lands.

    Preventing Demarcation

    Invaders of the Cachoeira
    Seca indigenous land, where the Arara people live in Uruará, state
    of Pará, have plans to prevent the demarcation of the area, which Funai
    began to carry out in the last few weeks.

    According to Paulo Medeiros,
    from the local Rural Workers’ Union and a candidate for mayor in Uruará,
    they will be going to the place where the Funai teams are demarcating the
    area.

    "We will stop them.
    We will not accept the demarcation of this land," he said. Medeiros also
    remarked that the businesspersons and settlers who will participate in the
    demonstration will block the Transamazônica highway. "We are taking
    different measures and we will file a suit with a federal court to suspend
    the demarcation."

    He says that the indigenous
    people do not recognize that area as theirs. "They don’t want that land."

    According to Petronila
    Almeida, however, who is a Cimi missionary, the Arara people who live in the
    Cachoeira Seca land recognize it as their territory and are fighting to ensure
    their rights to it.

    "The struggle of
    this people is not recent, as they have been fighting for this area since
    1993, when the administrative ruling authorizing the demarcation of the land
    was issued. In 11 years, no measure had been taken by the appropriate agencies
    to demarcate it," she said.

    As evidence of this tireless
    struggle, Petronila recalled a visit of a delegation of the Arara people to
    Brasília on June 14-18. At that time, they were granted several audiences
    with authorities to deal with the demarcation issue.

    "On the 16th, they
    officially delivered a signed petition to the Minister of Justice with 23,000
    signatures collected during a campaign for the demarcation of the Cachoeira
    Seca indigenous land," she said.

    Considering these facts,
    "any acts of violence which these people may suffer can be blamed on
    the federal agencies, which have been neglectful of their responsibilities
    in relation to people who have been contacted for the first time by our society
    only 16 years ago and are at a high risk of being exterminated and massacred
    if appropriate measures are not taken on an urgent basis," the missionary
    concluded.

    On the occasion of their
    visit to Brasília, the Arara people reported that as a result of the
    delay to demarcate the land, they have been constantly threatened and persecuted
    by its invaders.

    In 2000, a member of the
    Arara people was killed after trying to put an end to predatory fishing inside
    the area. Since then, they no longer leave their villages alone to hunt or
    fish for fear of the threats they have been receiving.

    "We only go out in
    groups because we are afraid to do it alone. If we are alone and a white man
    finds us in the forest and tries to kill one of us, who will save us?"
    said a leader of the Arara.


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

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