Indian leader who toured Europe killed

January 14, 2003

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Marcos Veron, one of the most important leaders of the Guarani-Kaiowá tribe in Brazil, has been killed by gunmen. Veron, aged approximately 70, is the third Brazilian Indian to be murdered since the New Year. He was the head of a community who had been trying for fifty years to recover their land after it was seized by cattle ranchers.

In recent months the community had been living by the side of a highway, having tried to re-occupy some of their land and been forced out by armed police and soldiers.

In 2000 Veron toured Europe to publicise Survival's report on the history of Brazilian Indians, Disinherited. He said then, 'The ranchers shoot at us, burn our houses and kill our children. They are trying to get rid of us… so now we have to come all the way here to look for our rights.' The loss of almost all their land to cattle ranchers has precipitated a crisis in Guarani-Kaiowá society: they now have one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

During his brief re-occupation of his ancestral land, Veron said, 'This here is my life, my soul. If you take me away from this land, you take my life.'

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival, said today, 'Marcos's words have come prophetically and tragically true. The terrible plight of the Guarani-Kaiowá, and the many other tribes in Brazil without land, is the most urgent issue facing the new President.'

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