Guarani death toll rises

April 4, 2006

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Two Guarani infants from the community of Ñanderú Marangatú died last week, bringing the number of deaths due to their eviction from their land in December to seven.

The two children, one of thirteen months and the other only fifteen days old, died last Tuesday in the roadside camp in which the community has been living since December. Hired gunmen assassinated community leader Dorvalino Rocha on Christmas Eve, days after armed police forced the four hundred Indians to leave their land. Four other young children have also died.

Brazil's President Lula ratified the demarcation of Ñanderú Marangatú in March last year after the Guarani had spent many years living on a tiny nine-hectare plot and campaigning to have their land returned to them. The signature of the president is usually the final legal step in the demarcation process, but ranchers are contesting the ratification in Brazil's supreme court.

The Guarani suspect that the fifteen-day-old child who died last week may have been poisoned by pesticides. ‘The other child… was healthy, without any problems,' says Guarani leader Léia Aquino Pedro. ‘But since she came to the roadside, her weight decreased, and this is how things ended up. It's the sort of thing that can't be explained.'