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Brazil moves to end tension over land disputes

BRICS Post | February 20, 2014

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s government is taking measures to avert a confrontation over disputed territory between Amazon Indian tribes and farmers who are believed to have encroached on their historic lands.

It says it will begin to forcibly evict non-indigenous people occupying reserves and protected forests who have been ordered off the land by local courts.

The disputes go to the heart of the delicate balance between economic growth and conservation as companies pursue forest and mineral expansion into the traditional Amazon forest heartland.

In mid-January, Brasilia redeployed hundreds of soldiers and police, backed by tanks and helicopters, to enforce a June 2013 court order to evict nearly 7,000 farmers and ranchers from the Awá-Guajá reserve in the northeastern state of Maranhão.

Earlier this week, the government said it hoped to have all farmers and ranchers evicted from the area by April. There are concerns that recent clashes between indigenous peoples and ranchers could have a spillover effect into more states.

Last June, Minister of Justice Jose Eduardo Cardozo ordered the deployment of an elite military unit to Sidrolandia in southern Mato Grosso state, after indigenous peasants were killed by landowners’ employees.

The number of land disputes – and the ensuing violence, seizures and confiscations – have increased in the past several years, a 2012 report by the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) said.

“Problems facing the indigenous population include murders, death threats, lack of health care and education, and delays in registering land ownership,” CIMI says in its report.

In the meantime, Rousseff has promised to suspend demarcating borders in disputed zones and said new rules will soon be in place.

Land disputes, and often the violent confrontations that ensue, have for decades posed challenges to Brazil’s government.

Advocates from the Landless Farmers Movement have for the past three years pressured Rousseff to expedite land redistribution to landless and indigenous farmers.

Rousseff is herself also being pressured by landowners.

In April 2012, Brazil’s Congress caved in to land lobbyists and voted greater flexibility regarding how much forest land farmers are required to conserve.

While Brazilian laws since 1965 call for protection of forests – including some 13 per cent of the land allocated as preserves for indigenous populations, the Congress vote weakened the means to enforce them.

There was no provision, for example, that forced landowners to reforest land that they had already cleared.

Although Rousseff vetoed portions of the bill, including a segment that issued amnesty to illegal loggers, and sent it back to Congress for a rewrite in May 2012, deforestation has dramatically surged since.

February 20, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brazil: Soldiers Sent to Indigenous Occupied Land

By Emily Tarbuck | The Argentina Independent | June 6, 2013

The Brazilian government has announced that it will send around 200 soldiers to land occupied by indigenous groups in Mato Grosso do Sul.

The move comes after a member of the Terena indigenous group was killed whilst police attempted to evict the occupiers last week. The groups believe the land belongs to their indigenous ancestral territory, which is currently recognised as the property of local politician, Ricardo Bacha, and have occupied the land for over two weeks.

The announcement from the government detailed how the soldiers were being sent to the farm in order to prevent the problem from escalating. Brazil’s Justice minister Jose Cardozo said: “We’re not going to put out the flames by pouring alcohol on the bonfire…we must avoid radicalising a situation that goes back a long way in Brazilian history.”

Cardozo also announced that he would be travelling to Mato Grosso do Sul in order to oversee the deployment of soldiers, and that the soldiers from the National Force were being sent in order to support the local police force.

It was revealed that the call for soldier interception came from the governor of Mato Grosso do Sol, André Puccinelli, and that soldiers have been steadily deployed by land and air to the area since Tuesday.

Dozens of other indigenous groups have marched around Mato Grosso do Sul in the Sidronlandia region in support of the Terena people. A date has not been set for the withdrawal of the soldiers.

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brazil: Indigenous Group Member Killed After Police Eviction

By Laura Benitez | The Argentina Independent | June 2, 2013

Indigenous groups have re-occupied farm land in Mato Grosso do Sul, South of Brazil, after being evicted on Thursday.

The groups are claiming ownership over part of the farm as they say it forms part of their ancestral lands.

The groups have occupied the land, which is owned by a local politician, Ricardo Bacha, for over two weeks. During the eviction process on Thursday, one of the group members, Osiel Abriel was shot and killed by police.

According to press reports, police officers have claimed that the group became violent during Thursday’s eviction process.

Brazil’s justice minister José Eduardo Cardozo, has called an investigation into the death of Abriel which will determine if an excessive and unnecessary use of force and firearms were used.

“We will very accurately determine what happened. If there were abuses, those responsible will be punished, “he said.

On Friday, 250 people from the group returned back to the farm to re-occupy the land.

Local media have said that although the situation continues to be “tense”, there has been no violence since the re-occupation on Friday.

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Brazil: Indigenous Group Member Killed After Police Eviction

Brazil arrests 18 over high profile execution of Indian leader

Survival International | July 19, 2012

Brazilian authorities have arrested 18 people in connection with the high profile killing of an indigenous leader by masked gunmen.

Religious leader Nísio Gomes was murdered in front of his Guarani community in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul last November. His body has never been found.

The list of suspects includes the owner of a notorious security firm which hires out gunmen to patrol areas of land occupied by ranchers.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Gaspem Segurança’s owner, Aurelino Arce, have so far failed to secure his release.

Brazil’s federal police have also linked other prominent suspects to Gomes’s murder, including six ranchers, a lawyer and a civil servant.

The charges brought against those arrested include: planning the attack, supplying arms, corrupting witnesses and fraud.

Brazil’s Guarani are repeatedly thrown off their land by cattle ranchers and forced to live in dangerous conditions by the roadside or in overcrowded reserves. Assassinations of Guarani leaders by gunmen are also commonplace, in an effort to stop communities returning to their land.

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Comments Off on Brazil arrests 18 over high profile execution of Indian leader

Brazilian Judge Suspends Dam License, Upholds Indigenous Rights

ENS | April 5, 2012

BRASILIA, Brazil  – A federal judge has suspended the construction license of the Teles Pires hydroelectric dam in the Brazilian Amazon, saying the permitting process violated the rights of indigenous people protected under the Brazilian Constitution.

In her ruling, Judge Celia Regina Ody Bernardes, a federal judge in the state of Mato Grosso, sided with federal public prosecutors and public prosecutors from Mato Grosso and the state of Pará who argued the dam would cause “imminent and irreversible damage to the quality of life and cultural heritage of indigenous peoples of the region.”

The dam would flooding a series of rapids on the Teles Pires River known as Sete Quedas, or Seven Waterfalls, the spawning grounds of fish of great importance to the indigenous residents.

The judge ordered the immediate suspension of all activities in dam construction, “especially explosions of boulders in the region of Sete Quedas.”

A recent declaration by indigenous peoples cited in the lawsuit states, “Sete Quedas is a sacred place, where the Mae dos Peixes (Mother of Fish) and other spirits of our ancestors live – a place known as Uel, meaning that it should not be messed with.”

The 1,820 megawatt capacity dam has been under construction since August 2011 on the Teles Pires River, a major tributary of the Tapajos River in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon.

The dam is one of six large hydropower projects planned for the Teles Pires River, which forms the border between the states of Mato Grosso and Pará.

In her decision, Judge Bernardes concluded that prior to greenlighting dam construction, the federal environmental agency IBAMA failed to consult with affected indigenous communities, despite serious threats to their “socioeconomic and cultural well-being.”

She ruled that this constitutes a violation of the Brazilian Constitution and ILO Convention 169, which Brazil signed in 2004.

In addition to its importance for the physical survival of indigenous peoples, Sete Quedas holds tremendous cultural significance. The lawsuit argues that the dam construction site is “a sacred area relevant for the beliefs, customs, traditions, symbolism and spirituality of indigenous peoples. As a cultural heritage site, it is protected by the Brazilian Constitution and international agreements.”

Other threats to indigenous peoples provoked by dam construction, cited in the lawsuit, include conflicts associated with a massive influx of migrants to the region, land speculation, illegal deforestation, predatory fishing and illegal exploitation of mining resources. The prosecutors argued that, given a delay of almost 20 years in the demarcation of the Kayabi territory, such threats are even more severe.

Taravy Kayabi, a leader of the Kayabi people, said, “While the federal government stalls in implementing laws that protect the rights of indigenous peoples, it is pressuring us to accept the dams. But we know the compensation they are offering will never substitute places that are sacred to us, such as Sete Quedas, that hold the cemeteries of our ancestors and that should be preserved.”

“Sete Quedas is also the spawning grounds of fish that are an important source of food. They talk about fish ladders, but where have these ever worked? Kayabi asked.

“The government needs to look for alternative ways to generate energy that don’t harm indigenous peoples and their territories,” he said.

Civil society groups and leaders of the Kayabi community welcomed the news of the the suspension of dam construction, but warned against a possible overturning of Judge Bernardes’ restraining order.

Brent Millikan, director of the Amazon Program at International Rivers, based in California, says he has seen it happen before.

“What we’ve seen over and over again, in cases such as Belo Monte, is that the President’s office politically intervenes in regional federal courts to overturn decisions against violations of human rights and environmental legislation, using false arguments, such as an impending blackout at the national level if dams aren’t immediately constructed,” he said.

“Of course, this is ludicrous,” said Millikan. He says indigenous peoples and human rights groups in Brazil and around the world” are calling on the government of President Dilma Rousseff “to change course and respect the country’s constitution and rule of law.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.

April 8, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Brazilian Judge Suspends Dam License, Upholds Indigenous Rights