Tag Archives: Land Rights

Costa Rican Indigenous land rights activist assassinated by gunmen

Sergio Rojas indigenous land activist is pictured during a interview in Salitre, Buenos Aires de Puntarenas, Costa Rica, October 2, 2015. Courtesy of La Nacion via REUTERS

A well-known Costa Rican indigenous land rights activist was gunned down on Monday night.

Sergio Rojas was at his home in the indigenous territory of Salitre, about 200 km (124 miles) south of the capital, San Jose, when the attack happened late on Monday, the office of President Carlos Alvarado said, calling the killing “regrettable.”

According to a press release, Rojas was assassinated by armed gunmen who shot him as many as 15 times at around 9:15 pm in his home in Yeri. It appears the armed assailant entered the back of Sergio’s home. Neighbors called 911. Over an hour later police arrived. Eventually members of the Red Cross entered and confirmed that he died of multiple gunshot wounds.

The Tico Times reports, an investigation into the murder has been initiated, led by the country’s Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) in collaboration with National Police. 

Alvarado said he has asked the Public Security Ministry (MSP) to provide all necessary support to OIJ to aid the investigation.

MSP officers maintain a presence at the location of Sergio Rojas’s apparent murder. (Via Casa Presidencial. )

Rojas was President of the Association for the Development of the Indigenous Territory of Salitre and coordinator of the National Front of Indigenous Peoples (FRENAP) in Costa Rica and was a staunch defender of the Bribri of Saltire Indigenous people who have been fighting for years to regain their rights to over 12,000 hectares of land in southern Costa Rica pledged to them by a 1938 government agreement, according to a 2014 teleSUR report.

In 2012, Rojas was shot at six times in an apparent assassination attempt near the reserve but escaped the shooting unscathed.

Reuters reports, in 2015, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the government to provide Bribri and Teribe people with protection, arguing they were at risk because of actions taken to recover their lands.

Costa Rica has 24 indigenous territories inhabited by eight ethnic groups, with occupation and encroachment on their land by ranchers causing conflict since the 1960s.

Farmers, angered in a land dispute, burned down the home of an indigenous family in Salitre, a Bribrí indigenous reserve in south-central Costa Rica, July 5, 2014. (The Tico Times)

“He [Rojas] made a lot of enemies over the years,” said Sonia Suárez, a schoolteacher in Salitre.

In a statement, Costa Rica’s ombudsman said Rojas had requested further police protection on Friday after he and other members of his organization said they were shot at in connection with their “recovery” of a farm on Bribri land.

The Central American country has for years struggled to mediate land-right disputes between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

Costa Rica’s 1977 Indigenous Law prohibits the sale of indigenous lands, but is not clear on what to do in cases where land within reserves was already farmed by outsiders.

Brazilian Supreme Court Upholds Land Rights of Indigenous People

A member of Brazil’s riot police trains his gun at Brazilian Indians. Photograph: Gregg Newton/Reuters

Land rights activists applaud rejection of case brought by Brazilian state that claimed it was due compensation for award of territory to native inhabitants

The Brazilian supreme court has ruled in favour of two tribes in a case that is being hailed as a significant victory for indigenous land rights.

The unanimous decision – which went against the state of Mato Grosso do Sul – settled a dispute over land traditionally occupied by indigenous people and ordered the authorities to respect the demarcation of land.

Amid increasing conflict over land and diminishing rights for indigenous people in the country, the south-western Brazilian state had sought compensation of about 2bn reais (£493m) from the Brazilian government after land was declared as the territory of the Nambikwara and Pareci tribes.

A third case, involving Rio Grande do Sul state, was adjourned for 15 days.

“This is an important step towards achieving justice for indigenous people in Brazil,” said Tonico Benites, a Guarani leader. “This gives us hope the judiciary will protect our rights, which are guaranteed by the constitution and international law.”

Activists had feared judges would uphold a recommendation from the attorney general’s office that any tribe not occupying its ancestral land when Brazil’s new constitution came into force on 5 October 1988 would lose its right to live there – a time limit that had been called the worst blow to indigenous rights since the military dictatorship ended in 1985.

But Sarah Shenker, a campaigner with Survival International, said feelings were running high in Brazil against indigenous rights: “If the judges apply the same thinking in the third ruling, in theory [indigenous] land rights should be protected. But there is such a strong anti-indigenous campaign in Brazil at the moment that we have to be very careful.”

Benites said indigenous leaders would now work to overturn the 1988 cut-off date – a plan signed by President  Michel Temer last month and which critics claim is to win favour with the powerful agribusiness lobby, known as the ruralistas.

The deadline would not only halt new demarcations of indigenous land but also legitimise claims by ranchers and wealthy farmers who have long coveted Indian territories.

“It is a very cynical move,” said Juliana de Paula Batista, a lawyer working with the Socio-environmental Institute in Brasilia. “Since many indigenous people were violently expelled from their ancestral land in the colonial and military eras, they could not possibly have been living on this land in 1988.”

Campaigners have claimed Temer is using land rights as a bargaining chip to shore up his unpopular government.

Luiz Henrique Eloy Amado, a lawyer for Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples (Apib), said: “The Temer government wants to remain at all costs, which requires the votes of the ruralista bloc.”

The attorney general’s recommendation of a time limit was greeted as a triumph in a video by ruralista federal deputy Luiz Carlos Heinze, potentially resulting in the dismissal of 90% of ongoing indigenous land claims. Hundreds of indigenous territories around Brazil are awaiting demarcation.

The Guarani-Kaiowás occupy only a fraction of their ancestral territories in Mato Grosso do Sul and their decades-long struggle has caused violent conflict with cattle ranchers and soy and sugar cane farmers.

Fiona Watson, director of campaigns for Survival International, estimated that 45,000 Guarani-Kaiowás would lose rights to land under the proposed cut-off point, as would other tribes across the south and north-east.

The 1988 deadline, the marco temporal, has triggered major protests across Brazil, organised by the Apib under the banner: “Our history did not start in 1988, no to the time limit”. Hundreds of people converged on Brasilia for the supreme court ruling on Wednesday.

Last week, 48 indigenous organisations and civil society bodies signed a letter to the UN high commissioner for human rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, denouncing violations since the 2016 visit of UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpus, who noted a “worrying regression in the protection of indigenous people’s rights”.

Brazil has experienced a rise in homicides related to rural land disputes, with 37 people killed in the first five months of this year, eight more than died over the same period in 2016, according to the Pastoral Land Commission, a non-profit group.

Eliseu Lopes, a Guarani leader from Mato Grosso do Sul, expressed relief at the outcome: “The land conflict is already killing us. Imagine what it would be like if the proposal were approved,” he said. “It would legitimise the violence against us. The vote doesn’t solve all our problems, but it gives us some breathing space.”

By the Guardian published on August 17, 2017 


Brazil Suspends Amazon Dam Project Over Fears For Indigenous People


In this file November 28, 2014 photo, Munduruku Indians do a traditional dance around officials from Brazil’s national Indian agency (Funai), in western Para state, to protest the construction of the planned Sao Luiz do Tapajos hydroelectric dam. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation – Apr 22, 2016

By Chris Arsenault

Land rights campaigners have welcomed the suspension of a mega-dam project in Brazil’s Amazon basin which would have flooded an area the size of New York City and displaced indigenous communities.

The São Luiz do Tapajós dam would have forced Munduruku indigenous people out of their traditional territory while disrupting the Amazon ecosystem, a campaigner said on Friday.

The move by Brazil’s environment agency IBAMA to suspend construction permits for the dam followed a report by the country’s National Indian Foundation which said the project would have violated indigenous land rights protected under Brazil’s constitution.

“The areas that would have been flooded include sites of important religious and cultural significance,” Brent Millikan, a Brasilia-based campaigner with the non-profit rights group International Rivers told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The local communities have a huge amount of knowledge about the resources where they are – if they were forced off the land and into cities they would become unskilled workers.”

Brazil’s environment agency said this week that it suspended licensing due to “the infeasibility of the project from the perspective of indigenous issues”. The dam would have flooded 178,000 hectares of land.

The decision comes as South America’s largest country faces a political crisis following a congressional vote to impeach President Dilma Rouseff who is embroiled in a corruption scandal as the nation grapples with its worst recession since the 1930s.

Supporters of the dam, which was expected to produce around 8,000 megawatts of electricity, say it would have provided green power and jobs in a country which needs both.

Hydroelectric power plants produce about 80 percent of the electricity generated in Brazil.

Backers of the dam have a 90 day period where they can appeal the suspension and submit revised plans on the size of the flooded area and how to deal with the local indigenous population, Millikan said.


Indigenous Peoples Given Interactive Map To Help Secure Land Rights

A Ka'apor Indian warrior carries a chainsaw which was confiscated during a jungle expedition to search for and expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, near the Centro do Guilherme municipality in the northeast of Maranhao state in the Amazon basin, Brazil, August 7, 2014. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

A Ka’apor Indian warrior carries a chainsaw which was confiscated during a jungle expedition to search for and expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, near the Centro do Guilherme municipality in the northeast of Maranhao state in the Amazon basin, Brazil, August 7, 2014. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation, By: Magda Mis

Indigenous peoples whose land rights have often been exploited due to lack of maps and data have a new tool to help secure their rights: a global interactive map of the land they claim called LandMark.

Indigenous peoples and communities claim to hold about two thirds of the world’s land but are legally recognised as holding only 10 percent, according to think thank World Resources Institute (WRI), one of the organisations behind the project.

“By visualizing the locations of indigenous peoples and local communities-involving perhaps 2 billion people-LandMark pushes their existence into the calculations of those making decisions about climate change, economic development, poverty alleviation, and natural resources conservation,” Peter Veit, director of the WRI’s Land and Resources Rights initiative, said in a statement.

“LandMark provides indigenous peoples and communities the opportunity to be proactive in their efforts to protect their lands, not just reactive to imminent threats.”

Without legal rights to land, indigenous communities may find their land is taken over for the exploitative development of natural resources, palm oil plantations and logging, according to the WRI.

Mapping their territory gives them an opportunity to show that their land is not vacant, idle or available for outsiders, it said.

The WRI said last week that ensuring rainforest communities have secure land rights could reduce deforestation and land-use conflicts and prevent tens of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Developed by a partnership of indigenous groups and land rights and research bodies, the beta version of the map launched on Tuesday shows the boundaries of thousands of pieces of land claimed by indigenous people and communities around the world.

It offers additional information about the lands such as land category and area.

Still in the development stage, the map is not a “crowd-sourcing” platform but aims to provide only high-quality data available from recognised organisations and experts who can submit their entries directly through www.LandMarkMap.org.

(Reporting by Magdalena Mis, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit http://www.trust.org)


Brazil: Indigenous People Set Up Protest Camp To Demand Land Rights

Hundreds of indigenous Brazilians demonstrate in Brasilia as part of the National Mobilisation Week(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

Hundreds of indigenous Brazilians demonstrate in Brasilia as part of the National Mobilisation Week(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

By David Sim in IBTimes | Posted, April 16, 2015

About 1,400 members of various indigenous Brazilian tribes have set up camp outside the National Congress in Brasilia to demand land rights.

Organisers of the Tierra Libre (Free Land) camp aim to discuss issues of land demarcation and indigenous rights with authorities.

brasilia indigenous protest

Members of some of Brazil’s indigenous tribes demonstrate in front of the Planalto Palace in Brasilia(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

brasilia indigenous protest

An indigenous Brazilian man aims his bow and arrow at the National Congress in Brasilia(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

brasilia indigenous protest

Brazilian natives dance in the rain in front of the Planalto Palace in Brasilia during National Mobilisation Week(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

brasilia indigenous protest

Brazilian Indians from various indigenous ethnic groups dance and sing in the rain at the Esplanade of Ministries in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

“A hundred groups from across the country are here to express their dissatisfaction and denounce attacks against their rights, which are happening in Congress,” Cleber Buzzato, executive secretary of the Indigenous Missionary Council told AFP.

Indians fear that legislators will allow the use of their ancestral lands by agribusiness, which has the backing of a group of parliamentarians and the new Minister of Agriculture, Katia Abreu. Many believe that new legislation threatens to shrink the size of some reserves for indigenous groups.

brasilia indigenous protest

Brazilian Indians take part in a protest in front of the National Congress in Brasilia(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

brasilia indigenous protest

An indigenous Brazilian man takes part in a protest in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

brasilia indigenous protest

Brazilians from various indigenous ethnic groups take part in a protest at the Esplanade of Ministries in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

brasilia indigenous protest

A man smokes a pipe in front of a row of riot police officers outside the Planalto Palace in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

brasilia indigenous protest

A Brazilian Indian participates in the National Indigenous Mobilisation camp in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

brasilia indigenous protest

Members of the Xucuru ethnic group attend the Terra Livre Camp (Free Land Camp) in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

brasilia indigenous protest

A member of the Kaingang ethnic group protests during National Indigenous Mobilisation week in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

brasilia indigenous protest

A member of a Brazilian indigenous tribe plays the guitar at the so-called Free Land camp in front of the National Congress in Brasilia(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

brasilia indigenous protest

Indigenous men pose for a selfie while setting up a tent at the Ministries Esplanade in Brasilia(Evaristo Sa/AFP)