The Guarani community of Arroio Korá has been attacked by gunmen trying to expel the community from their ancestral lands in southwestern Brazil.
According to the community, the gunmen spent “hours” terrorizing the community, shooting their weapons, shouting threats and burning crops. One indigenous person, Eduardo Pires, was also kidnapped by the gunmen. He has not been since.
Amnesty International released the following action alert in support of Arroio Korá.
Note: this is an unofficial translation of Amnesty International’s August 17 alert. You can read the original alert in Portuguese here
The indigenous community of Arroio Korá in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, central-western Brazil, was attacked by gunmen who attempted to remove them from their ancestral lands. One indigenous member of the community is missing, feared to have been killed. There is a risk of further violence.
According to the community, on August 10, about 50 armed men surrounded the encampment that brought together 400 people, in the municipality of Paranhos, on the border with Paraguay. For several hours the gunmen opened fire, shouted threats and burned crops, and community members fled into the nearby forest. One of the indigenous persons, Eduardo Pires, disappeared during the attack; the community said he was taken by the gunmen and fears that he has been murdered. The next day Geni Centurião, a two year old girl, died. The cause of death has not yet been officially established, but the community says the child fell ill during the attack and that it was impossible to feed her.
The Federal Police were at the scene shortly after the attack, but the community complained that the authorities have not given due attention to the disappearance of Eduardo Pires, and that they are in urgent need of permanent protection. The Federal Public Ministry asked the Federal Police to initiate an inquiry into the attack. According to the NGO the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), there is a serious threat of new attacks against the community. Several indigenous communities have been attacked under similar circumstances in the municipality of Paranhos in recent years.
The land Arroio Korá was confirmed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on December 21, 2009. Nevertheless, one week later the Supreme Court suspended the recognition of a small section of the lands (184 of 7,176 hectares). While the farmers have used this decision to continue occupying the entire expanse of the lands, the indigenous peoples of Arroio Korá staged the reoccupation of their ancestral lands that do not include the disputed area.
Please write immediately in Portuguese or your own language:
Minister of Justice
Excellency Mr. José Eduardo Martins Cardozo
Esplanada dos Ministerios, Bloco “T”
70712-902 – Brasília / DF
Fax: + 55 61 2025 7803
Salutation: Your Excellency Mr. Minister
Secretary of Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic
Hon Madam Minister Maria do Rosário
Setor Comercial Sul-B, Quadra 9, Lote C
Edifício Parque Cidade Corporate, Torre “A”, 10º andar,
Brasília, DF CEP: 70308-200, Brasil
Fax: + 55 61 2025 9414
Salutation: Your Excellency Madam Minister
And copies to:
Indigenist Missionary Council – CIMI
CIMI Regional Mato Grosso do Sul
Av. Afonso Pena,
1557 Sala 208 Bl.B
79002-070 Campo Grande / MS Brazil
The state of Mato Grosso do Sul has some of the smallest, poorest and most densely populated indigenous areas in Brazil: in these pockets of poverty, surrounded by large soy and sugar cane plantations and cattle ranches, life is undermined by miserable and unhealthy living conditions. Approximately 43,000 indigenous Guarani-Kaiowá live a precarious existence – social breakdown led to high levels of violence, suicide and malnutrition. Frustrated with the slowness of the process of land demarcation, the Guarani-Kaiowá began to reoccupy their ancestral lands, but have faced intimidation and violence, frequently committed by private security companies working for the local farmers and ranchers.
During the last decade, several attacks and assassinations resulted from the struggle of the Guarani-Kaiowá for land, especially in the municipality of Paranhos, where the community of Arroio Korá is located. In 2009 a teacher was killed and another disappeared during an attack on the village of Pirajuí; witnesses of the community of Guaiviry say that in another attack in the same region, in 2011, the indigenous leader Nísio Gomes was shot before being abducted; his body was never found.
Many communities were forcibly dispossessed and ended up living along highways. They were threatened by security guards hired to prevent them from attempting to reoccupy the land, and they face health problems from living in inadequate temporary shelters and from lack of medical assistance. A large number have been killed or injured in traffic accidents.
In November of 2007, the Ministry of Justice, the Federal Public Ministry, FUNAI and 23 indigenous leaders signed an agreement (Term of Adjustment of Conduct – TAC) that committed the FUNAI to identification of 36 different Guarani-Kaiowá ancestral lands by April of 2010. But the lack of resources and legal questions delayed the identification process, which has not yet been completed.
One exception is the tekoha (ancestral land) Arroio Korá, which was officially recognized by then President Lula in December of 2009. However, after the Supreme Court questioned the decision in relation to a small portion of the land, farmers continued to occupy the rest of the land and no attempt was made to remove non-indigenous from the area.
Both the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Brazil signed in 2007, as well as Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, of which Brazil is a member, consecrating the rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands and urgently insisting that States establish mechanisms whereby such rights are conceded and recognized. The Brazilian Constitution (1988) also affirms the rights of Brazilian indigenous peoples to their land and the responsibility of the Union to demarcate these.
Recent alterations stipulate that future indigenous identifications will have to go through the office of the presidency before they are approved – a change that many local NGOs fear compromises the constitutional rights of indigenous peoples to their lands. Also generating great concern is the recent publication by the Attorney General of Ordinance 303 based on conditions inherent to the historic decision of the Supreme Court in 2009, on Raposa Serra do Sol. The ordinance seriously threatens the legitimacy and autonomy of the current and future demarcations and has been vehemently contested by indigenous groups.
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