Losing the land war

September 10, 2013

Lunae Parracho – Reuters, 09/09/2013

Three-year-old Sandriely has a look of suffering. She was born in the roadside camp along the same highway where her brother was run over by a truck. Her grandmother Damiana Cavanha, one of the few women chiefs among the Guarani Indians, has lost, beside her grandson, five other family members: one aunt died of poisoning from pesticides used on the neighboring sugar cane plantation, and her husband and three of their children were hit and killed by passing vehicles.

Damiana, Sandriely, and 23 other Guarani Kaiowa Indians are living in a makeshift camp along the shoulder of highway BR-463 in Mato Grosso do Sul since 2009. They settled here after their last failed attempt to take back their ancestral land, called Tekohá Apika’y. (Tekohá is loosely translated as ancestral land, and Apika’y, the name of that specific plot, means “those who wait.”) That was four years ago when they were expelled from their land by gunmen who shot one of them.

A federal prosecutor visited the camp back then, and wrote in a report, “Children, youths, adults and the elderly are subjected to degrading conditions against human dignity. The situation experienced by them is analogous to a refugee camp. They are like foreigners in their own country.”

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Bow, arrow, facebook: Brazilian tribes fight for their land

August 22, 2013

Jens Glusing – Spiegel Online, 08/22/2013

When the helicopter appears above the tops of the mango trees, Alberto, a headman with the Terena tribe, raises his spear into the air, shouts a war cry and calls his men together. About 200 members of the tribe congregate on a meadow. Some shoot arrows at the helicopter, while others swing clubs and cock catapults. Many are wearing headdresses and war paint. “This land belongs to us!” the chief shouts. The helicopter rattles away into the distance.

The police helicopters fly across Fazenda Buriti, a large cattle range in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, two or three times a day. Indigenous people armed with clubs are guarding the entrance of the ranch, which they have occupied for the last three months.

Fazenda Buriti is one of 62 farms in the state that the indigenous people have overrun, part of their revolt against the government from the Amazon region to the southern Pampas area. They are fighting for their land, protecting the borders of their reservations, resisting the construction of hydroelectric power plants in their regions and protesting against the advance of the agricultural industry, which is destroying their homeland.

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Brazil soy group says to end legal dispute with Monsanto

August 9, 2013

Reuters, 08/09/2013

Brazil’s largest soybean cooperative, Aprosoja, has decided to drop a lawsuit against U.S.-based Monsanto and is encouraging farmers to sign agreements with the seed giant, the group’s lawyer said on Friday.

Aprosoja decided after a long assembly in top soy producing state Mato Grosso late on Thursday that members should accept Monsanto’s offer to reduce the price on its new Intacta RR2 pro soybeans in exchange for dropping a case against the company over its old seed technology, Roundup Ready.

“Yesterday, the agreement was accepted by the producers; next week the judicial action will be retired,” Ricardo Tomczyk, a lawyer who represents Aprosoja, told Reuters.

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Killings of Brazil’s indigenous Indians highlight tensions of land disputes

August 9, 2013

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 08/08/2013

Celso Rodrigues was walking by a river near his home in Mato Grosso do Sul, when he was ambushed by a gunman in a balaclava, shot with a pistol and then finished off with a rifle.

It might have been just another killing in Brazil, which has one of the world’s highest murder rates. But Rodrigues’s case has attracted international attention because he was a member of the Guarani ethnic group, which is at the heart of a fierce national dispute over indigenous rights.

In recent months, the national guard has been dispatched, a senior official has resigned and protests from both sides – tribes and landowners – have moved closer to the office of President Dilma Rousseff.

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Brazil’s indians reclaim land, citing promises, using force

June 24, 2013

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro- NPR, 06/22/2013

It was once the cattle farm of a former congressman, but now his stately house in the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul is a burned-out shell. Thatch huts are being built in the shade of flowering palm trees. Once the purview of one farmer’s family, it now is occupied by dozens of indigenous ones.

Indian activists say this is just the beginning.

This bucolic spot — called the Buriti farm — is now the unlikely epicenter of tensions erupting the length and breadth of rural Brazil. The indigenous tribes of this vast country are seeking the land rights they say they’ve historically been denied.

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Farmers v Ameridians

June 13, 2013

The Economist, 06/15/2013

WHEN Brazil’s constitution was adopted in 1988, five years was meant to be enough to decide which areas should be declared Amerindian tribal lands. Nearly 25 years later, the country has 557 indigenous territories covering 13% of its area, most of them in the Amazon. But more than 100 others are still being considered. The delay is causing conflict in long-farmed regions farther south.

In the past month several Terena Indians have been injured and one killed in confrontations with police and farmers in Sidrolândia in Mato Grosso do Sul (see map). It is just the latest flashpoint in a heavily agricultural state that is home to less than a tenth of Brazil’s 900,000 Indians, but more than half of those murdered since 2003. Federal security forces have been sent to keep the peace at Sidrolândia. Funai, the agency that advises the federal government on demarcation, is under fire in Congress and faces losing some of its powers. On June 7th its boss stepped down, citing ill health.

In the past month several Terena Indians have been injured and one killed in confrontations with police and farmers in Sidrolândia in Mato Grosso do Sul (see map). It is just the latest flashpoint in a heavily agricultural state that is home to less than a tenth of Brazil’s 900,000 Indians, but more than half of those murdered since 2003. Federal security forces have been sent to keep the peace at Sidrolândia. Funai, the agency that advises the federal government on demarcation, is under fire in Congress and faces losing some of its powers. On June 7th its boss stepped down, citing ill health.

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Brazil tries to defuse conflicts with Indians over land, dams

June 5, 2013

Anthony Boadle and Caroline Stauffer – Reuters, 06/04/2013

Lawmakers from the Brazilian farm state of Mato Grosso do Sul asked President Dilma Rousseff’s government on Tuesday to send troops to end land invasions by Indians claiming their ancestral territory.

Justice Minister Jose Cardozo said a request for troops would have to come from the state governor and announced he will meet with the Indians on Thursday in a bid to reach a settlement. The government is seeking to defuse mounting conflicts with indigenous tribes over farm land and hydroelectric dams in the Amazon.

Air Force planes flew 144 Munduruku Indians to Brasilia for talks to end a week-long occupation of the controversial Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River, a huge project aimed at feeding Brazil’s fast-growing demand for electricity.

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