Guarani-Kaiowá of Brazil win land rights

November 12, 2002

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The Guarani-Kaiowá Indians of Cerro Marangatu in Brazil have won back their land after 50 years. Last week, Brazil's Minister of Justice signed a bill for the demarcation of 9,300 hectares of land, covering the Cerro Marangatu area, stolen from the Guarani-Kaiowá by ranchers in the 1950s.

For decades, the 400 Guarani-Kaiowá of Cerro Marangatu were crammed onto just nine hectares of land, in terrible conditions. Lack of land led to food shortages and social breakdown; young children died of malnutrition and some committed suicide in despair. Once demarcation, the Brazilian process of recognising Indigenous areas, is complete, the Guarani-Kaiowá of Cerro Marangatu will at last be able to rebuild their community.

For other Guarani-Kaiowá communities, the struggle for land rights continues. Guarani-Kaiowá from Takuára are camped by the side of a road, having been evicted from their land by armed police and soldiers. When living in Takuára, leader Marcos Veron said, 'This here is my life. My soul. If you take me away from this land, you take my life.' His son now reports that Marcos Veron has talked of committing suicide.

The Guarani have one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Over 330 of a population of 30,000 have killed themselves in last 17 years.

Survival has campaigned with the Guarani-Kaiowá for many years. Director Stephen Corry said today, 'The Brazilian government's recognition of Cerro Marangatu is a great victory for the Guarani-Kaiowá. It will give hope to those communities whose rights to live on their land in peace are still being denied.'

Photos available to the press: for more information contact Miriam Ross (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]

Visit Related Material for a closer look at the Guarani Suicide epidemic.