News-Letter Nr. 501

Supreme court wants to carry out „full inspection" in the land of the Pataxo Hã-Hã-Hãe

The Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe who attended a session of the Supreme Court (STF) on Wednesday (the 27th) in the afternoon left the session worried about the decision made by the court. The judges of the STF accepted a "point of order" raised by the reporter of an Action to Declare Title Deeds Null, justice Nelson Jobim, according to which he should visit the Caramuru-Catarina-Paraguassu indigenous land, located in the south tip of the state of Bahia, to "review" the situation of private lands that encroach upon the indigenous territory. With this approach, the STF postponed its judgment of the grounds of the above-mentioned Action to Declare Title Deeds Null, which was referred to it for a final decision almost 20 years ago. Refusing to accept the decision, the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe warned that they will keep a permanent vigil in Brasília until the court issues a final verdict.

Before the session in the courtroom of the STF, the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe met with justice Jobim to explain to him how they have been suffering acts of violence on a daily basis as a result of the delay of the court to judge the matter. The indigenous people were accompanied by parliamentarians of the Workers' Party (PT) of the state of Bahia. The parliamentarians and the indigenous people reported that indigenous lands are largely in the hands of property speculators who are buying land from squatters and becoming large farmers as a result of these business transactions carried out in bad faith

The "point of order" was raised on December 5 of last year. On December 12, justice Maurício Corrêa requested a review of the proceedings in order to analyze the lawsuit in detail, but he ended up endorsing the vote of justice Nelson Jobim.

The Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe also reported that they can't even circulate without fear in Pau Brasil, the city closest to their village, because their lives are at risk. There are gunmen in the region who attack indigenous people in farms they reoccupied in October of last year. Since the lawsuit was filed, 14 indigenous people have been killed. The last crime occurred in January of this year.

According to the decision of the STF, justice Jobim can begin a comprehensive inspection in the region to check the grounds of the Action, which was filed by the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai) for the purpose of nullifying title deeds granted by the government of the state of Bahia. Defending his "point of order," the judge declared in the courtroom that a territory does not become an indigenous land simply as a result of its demarcation and that his "inspection" will be based on provisions of the chapter on indigenous people of the Federal Constitution.

"The proposal is basically aimed at challenging the bounds of the indigenous territory, which for indigenous peoples means reducing their land," declared Egon Dionísio Heck, Cimi's executive secretary. The Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe fear that the decision will enhance even more the climate of violence prevailing in the region. In December of last year, gunmen celebrated the proposal of justice Jobim and incited the population against the indigenous people. The same thing may happen again with more serious consequences, particularly because there is no deadline for a final verdict to be issued in connection with the lawsuit. The Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe are determined to pressure the STF to judge the case and have decided not to leave Brasília before a final verdict is issued.

Body of chief Xicão Xukuru is exhumed

The designation of a special Federal Police (PF) officer has brought new life to the investigations into the murder of chief Francisco de Assis Araújo (Xicão Xukuru) on May 20th, 1998, in Pesqueira, state of Pernambuco. Four years after the crime, nobody has been charged with the murder or punished.

This week, special officer Marcos Vandervan Cotrim coordinated the exhumation of the chief's body in order to gather more evidence leading to the identification of the guilty ones. The coroner's work was carried out in the presence of federal representative Fernando Ferro (Workers' Party - PT-State of Pernambuco), Cimi representatives, and relatives of Xicão, in a very emotional climate. The Xukuru authorized the exhumation of the body because they think it is important to resort to all investigation possibilities to elucidate the crime. The Federal Police said they expect to be able to announce the names of the guilty ones very soon. Parallel to the investigations of the Federal Police, investigations are also being carried out by the Civil Police, but no information is available about their results so far.

The death of Xicão Xukuru is directly linked to the struggle for the demarcation of the indigenous territory. The chief had received death threats, and his name and the names of other indigenous leaders had been included in a "death list." Three years after the murder of Xicão, leader Francisco de Assis Santana (Chico Quelé) was ambushed and killed also. The police have not been able to identify the persons responsible for the crime, although the Xukuru warned that the two murders were committed by gunmen hired by farmers of the region.

Brasília, February 28th, 2002
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi

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