Tag Archives: Guarani-Kaiowá tribe

Brazil’s Guarani-Kaiowa Tribe Allege Genocide Over Land Disputes

Indigenous leaders have accused landowners of murder

Indigenous leaders have accused landowners of murder. (Screenshot)

By BBC | Posted September 8 2015

Genocide is an emotive and powerful accusation to make against anyone but it is exactly what some indigenous leaders in Brazil say is happening to their people because of their government’s ignorance, if not its compliance.

For the past week hundreds of members of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe have been mourning the death of a 24-year-old man, Semiao Vilhalva. He was killed – shot in the face – during an invasion, or re-occupation, of three farms in the western state of Matto Grosso do Sul.

I looked on as elderly members of the tribe chanted tributes in their native tongue and led mourners across fields they say have belonged to their people for centuries – long before their present white so-called owners arrived, cut down the trees and populated the area with cattle.

A Guarani leader denounces the murder of indigenous leader Simao Vilhalva during a protest in front of the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, 1 September 2015.

The Guarani have taken their protests to Brazil’s capital, Brasilia

Mourners at Semiao's funeral 08 September 2015

The Guarani hold their own ceremony for Semiao

Semiao's grave 08 September 2015

Semiao Valhala was buried on disputed land

Semiao was buried on this land, now occupied by the Guarani but also claimed as legally theirs by several influential and powerful farming families here in the state of Matto Grosso do Sul.

Guarani men showed me the very spot, on the bank of a small river, where Semiao was shot and died. The gunman, say my guides, was a hired “pistoleiro” brought in by the farmers to intimidate and scare off the Guarani.

Map of Brazil

But, if anything, the murder of their young leader has made these indigenous people even more resolute to remain.

“This is a deliberate policy of genocide. It’s a long legal process designed to kill our people, slowly but surely,” says Guarani elder Tunico Benites.

He goes on: “Our rights are being violated and we don’t have even the basic conditions to survive. So we have no choice but to occupy, to retake our lands – otherwise we can’t survive as a people.”

Tunico Benites 08 September 2015

Tunico Benites says his people face a threat

One of those farmers whose land is claimed by the Guarani, under a legal ruling dating back to 2005, is Roseli Ruiz. She is also the chairwoman of the local farmers’ syndicate, or union, and is completely mistrustful of the way the dispute has been reported in the international media.

In her office in the rural town of Antonio Joao, Roseli Ruiz dismisses any suggestion that farmers had a hand in the death of Semiao.

Arguing that that there was no obvious gunshot wound on his body (in contrast to a video I was shown which suggested otherwise) the combative Ms Ruiz offered an explanation that the Indians themselves brought someone who had died earlier, and presented it as a murder, just to discredit the farmers and advance their claims to the land.

Roseli Ruiz in her office 08 September 2015

Roseli Ruiz: “I was known as Roseli of the Indians”

Roseli Ruiz paints a picture of a hitherto mutually beneficial relationship between indigenous and farmer.

“I was known as Roseli of the Indians,” she cries. “I took them to hospital if they were ill and even built them a school.”

It was a relationship that, according to Roseli, only started to deteriorate when the Guarani began to pursue claims to the land – claims which she insists are baseless.

Ranchers have long been part of Brazil’s drive for development – deep into the interior of the country and into conflict with indigenous people.

While some farmers have taken their cattle and moved on from the disputed land, others are refusing to move.

Gino Ferreira with horse 08 September 2015

Farmers like Gino Ferreira refuse all attempts to move them out

Gino Ferreira, like many farmers, has legal titles to his fazenda – or farm. He blames the government for doing nothing while an inevitable conflict loomed.

“This is my family’s land,” says Gino. “If the Indians arrive and take it over what do you think I’m going to do? Lose all I’ve worked for?”

He too, dismisses any allegations that farmers had a hand in the death of the Guarani leader, Semiao.

“We’re not bandits and we don’t hire gunmen,” says the 50-year-old farmer.

He goes on, “There are political reasons why they to try and make us look bad but none of it is true.”

Indigenous leaders protest with a coffin against the murder of the leader of the Guarani Kaiowa ethnicity, Semiao Vilhalva, in Brasilia, Brazil 01 September 2015.

But the Guarani’s reputation for dogged determination and their struggle has attracted attention beyond this rugged border region between Brazil and Paraguay.

Survival International, one of several pressure groups to criticise the hitherto unexplained death of the tribe’s leader said, “What is particularly harrowing about this murder is that the Guarani knew their reoccupation was likely to end in bloodshed.”

The mood among the Guarani is militant. As other Brazilians this week celebrated their independence day, the land’s original inhabitants mourned what they had lost.

For now the Brazilian army is doing a good job of keeping the two sides apart – preventing new land invasions and more retribution.

Occupying these 10,000 hectares the Guarani may have succeeded in recovering some of what was historically theirs.

But it has come at a high price and their lives are still burdened by poverty and discrimination.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-34183280

Brazilian Army Called To Keep The Peace After Death Of Indigenous Leader

Leader

Members of the Guarani-Kaiowá tribe carried a coffin on Tuesday to protest against the killing of Semião Vilhalva, a leader of the tribe. PHOTO: UESLEI MARCELINO/REUTERS

By JOHN LYONS

Member of the Guarani-Kaiowá tribe was killed amid a land dispute near the border with Paraguay

SÃO PAULO—Brazil has ordered its Army to keep order in a town on the nation’s western soy-growing frontier after a land dispute turned deadly, the latest clash between farmers and indigenous people in the South American nation.

Authorities said Semião Vilhalva, a leader of the Guarani-Kaiowá tribe, was killed on Saturday during a conflict with men who sought to remove him and hundreds of other tribe members from two of several farms that the tribe occupied earlier last week near Brazil’s border with Paraguay in Mato Grosso do Sul state. Mr. Vilhalva was shot dead, activists said. The Federal Police are investigating the case.

The owner of the farm where Mr. Vilhalva was found dead told local reporters that the men who sought to expel the Indians weren’t armed. The owner wasn’t immediately reachable for further comment.

Land disputes between Indians and farmers are increasing on Brazil’s far-flung frontiers, as a decade-old push to demarcate more big reservations for Brazil’s growing population of indigenous people meets resistance from farmers working the lands, in some cases for generations. In many instances, legal cases to resolve the disputes stall in Brazil’s circuitous and slow courts.

Occurring in remote regions where law enforcement is scarce, the disputes can turn violent when opposing sides lose faith in the country’s institutions to resolve the conflicts and take matters into their own hands, observers say.

“The excessive delays in the demarcation of traditional lands … and the violence indigenous people suffer for their complaints, are among the principal reasons for violent conflicts,” Amerigo Incalcaterra, a regional United Nations human-rights official, said in a statement.

In 2005, Brazil’s Indian protection agency declared 9,300 hectares (22,971 acres) near the Mato Grosso do Sul town of Antônio João a Guarani-Kaiowá reservation. But farmers working part of the land appealed the move, arguing the land was farmed continuously in many cases since 19th-century pioneers settled the region. Indian agency lawyers contend that land titles dating to that era were nullified by a 1988 constitution granting broader rights to indigenous peoples.

The legal case, which is before the Supreme Court, has sat unresolved for a decade. Adding to the pressure, the population of the Guarani people is outgrowing the relatively small reservations they were granted in the mid- and early 20th-century—often squalid camps with poor access to health and other services.

Last week, Guarani-Kaiowá groups occupied several of the farms to pressure for more land and a resolution to the demarcation case, authorities said. Days later, farmers returned to two of the farms to dislodge the protesting Indians. The conflict in which Mr. Vilhalva died ensued, authorities said. Military and justice ministry officials are now seeking to broker a peace.

Brazil has one of the world’s largest populations of indigenous peoples, and conflicts between settlers and tribes are an undercurrent in its history. As recently as the 1970s and 1980s, government efforts to develop the vast and sparsely populated Amazon region put settlers and isolated tribes in contact with each other.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/brazilian-army-called-to-keep-the-peace-after-death-of-indian-leader-1441311906