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South America celebrates Columbus Day on Sunday 12 October – only days after a ten-year-old Brazilian Indian became the latest victim in a spate of killings and persecution of South American Indians. Júnior Reis Loureiro was found dead on 22 September, with signs of strangulation on his body.
He is the latest of twenty-one Brazilian Indians murdered since Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva took over the presidency in January 2003, most of them due to conflicts over land. In Colombia, 118 Indians have been killed in the first half of 2003.
Many of these murders took place in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, where a group of tourists, including one Briton, is currently held captive by left-wing guerrillas. In Paraguay, bulldozers illegally invaded the land of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode tribe of the Chaco region at the end of September.
The Totobiegosode, who are nomadic hunter-gatherers, are seeing their last refuge squeezed from all sides. Ibore, a Totobiegosode woman who came out of the forest in 1998, and whose relatives are still uncontacted, remembers the first time she saw bulldozers approaching: 'We left all our things behind us and ran and ran.'
Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, 'It is a crime that more than five centuries after their lands were first invaded, South America's Indigenous people are still being killed, and in such large numbers. Only when their rights to their land are respected will these atrocities stop.'
Photos and footage available.
For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]
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