Landmark trial begins

19 years after the murder of Vicente Canas, the trial of those accused of killing him began today in Cuiabá, capital of Mato Grosso state.

Vicente Canas was a missionary who made the first peaceful contact with the Enawene Nawe tribe in 1974. He lived with them for 10 years, adopting their way of life and providing them with essential medical care.

When he first met them, the Enawene Nawe only numbered 97. Today their population is 430.

Vicente knew that in order to survive, the Enawene Nawe needed to secure their land. Despite receiving death threats and violent opposition from land owners and ranchers, he successfully lobbied for the territory to be officially recognised.

But this cost him his life. In 1987 a group of ranchers entered his isolated hut, near the Enawene Nawe’s village and stabbed him to death.

The subsequent investigation in to his murder was characterised by corruption and incompetence so that none of the six accused ever faced trial. Three men, including a former police chief are finally on trial. Two of the other accused have since died and the third is deemed too old to stand trial.

The Brazilian NGO, CIMI is asking supporters of the Enawene Nawe to lobby the public prosecution service and media in Mato Grosso and call for an end to the impunity of the killers.

The Enawene Nawe are campaigning for the demarcation of a crucial part of their land known as the Rio Preto which was not included when their territory was originally registered. The Indians have received threats from a group of local cattle ranchers if they visit this area, which is a very important source of fish for the tribe.

To support the Enawene Nawe’s campaign please click here