Violence explodes as Lula government betrays Brazil's Indigenous peoples

April 16, 2004

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Mass lobby of Congress by Indians planned for 19 April

The Brazilian Amazon has this week seen an explosion of violence, with both Indians and diamond miners being killed and beaten. Hundreds of Indigenous representatives are now gathering in the capital, Brasilia, to protest against government policies. A mass lobby of Congress is planned for 19 April, the annual 'Day of the Indian'.

Despite clear commitments in his election manifesto to demarcate Indian lands and to defend their rights, President Lula has failed to tackle the pressing problems which have led to an explosion of violent conflicts throughout the country.

This week there have been violent confrontations between the Cinta Larga tribe and diamond miners who have illegally invaded their reserve in the western Amazon. Miners responsible for killing several Cinta Larga last year returned to the Indian reserve. As the Indians tried to defend their land, conflict broke out and at least three miners died.

In reprisals for these killings, a Cinta Larga Indian was paraded by miners in the mining town of Espigão do Oeste on 10 April, tied to a tree and stoned and kicked for hours. Only the intervention of the police saved him from being lynched. Cinta Larga girls as young as 14 have been forced into prostitution by miners and many Indians have been assaulted and threatened since the mine was illegally opened in 2001.

In the northern Amazon the government has continually delayed recognition of the Raposa-Serra do Sol territory – home to over 12,000 Indians. Encouraged by local politicians, colonists and ranchers have invaded the area. At least 12 Makuxi Indians have been murdered by ranchers during the last 15 years. The situation is extremely tense as the government has hinted it may reduce the size of the reserve to hand Indian land to outsiders.

In the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, the Guarani are in a desperate fight to regain their land. The land situation is so acute that some communities live by the side of the road with no land or hope for the future. Malnutrition is common and Guarani children as young as nine have commited suicide.

Photos and footage available.

For further information, please phone Kali Mercier on (+44) (0) 20 7687 8731, or email [email protected].

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