News-Letter Nr. 504

Bishops of Mato Grosso do Sul demand demarcation of the Ñanderu Marangatu traditional land

All the six bishops and religious and lay members of the Pastoral Council of the Regional East Office 1 of CNBB (National Conference of Bishops of Brazil), based in Campo Grande, state of Mato Grosso do Sul, sent a letter last week to the minister of Justice, Aloysio Nunes Ferreira, asking him to proceed with the administrative procedure to recognize the Ñanderu Marangatu traditional land of the Guarani-Kaiová indigenous people. This indigenous land, which is also known as Cerro Marangatu and covers a 9,000-hectare area located in the municipality of Antônio João, is a historical claim of 90 families made up of 500 indigenous people altogether.

Letters have also been sent to the president of CNBB, Dom Jaime Chemello, and to the president of the Federal Senate, Ramez Tebet, asking them to press the federal authorities to resume the procedures to demarcate the Ñanderu and to start paying indemnifications to non-indigenous persons who occupied the land in good faith for them to leave the area.

The initiative was taken at the request of the indigenous people after a meeting organized by CNBB's Regional East Office 1 in Campo Grande on March 13 and 14 to discuss details of the Fraternity Campaign. The representatives of the Guarani-Kaiová reported that the climate in Ñanderu is one of permanent tension, because the indigenous people, including a large number of children, have been confined to a 30-hectare area without any means of subsistence. To make things worse, they may be evicted from the area by June 7 in compliance with an order issued by a federal court. The order was requested by one of the main five families that occupy the area and claim ownership of the indigenous land based on a title deed illegally granted by the state.

The Guarani-Kaiová hit the headlines in recent years because of the high suicide rate among them, particularly among young people - over 500 in 16 years. This phenomenon was caused by the terrible pressures suffered by their population of 29 thousand, which have been confined to small areas without any possibility of reproducing their traditional lifestyle. One of the main leaders of the Guarani people, Marçal Tupã-í, who greeted pope John Paul II in 1980 during his first visit to Brazil, was murdered in the same Ñanderu Marangatu traditional land in 1983. The crime remains unsolved to this day.

Minister of justice issues order to demarcate the Caieiras Velhas II indigenous land

The Tupinikim and Guarani peoples living in the Caieiras Velhas II (Gamboa) area, in the state of Espírito Santo, won a remarkable victory on March 19, when the minister of Justice, Aloysio Nunes Ferreira, signed an administrative ruling authorizing the demarcation of their 50.57-hectare indigenous land, located in the mouth of the Piraquê-Açu river in the municipality of Aracruz.

The decision of the minister was surprising and showed that a little bit of political will is all it takes to ensure respect for the constitutional rights of indigenous peoples. After meeting with the archbishop of Espírito Santo, D. Silvestre Luiz Scandian, Cimi's executive secretary, Egon Heck, and legal advisor Cláudio Luiz, who conveyed to him the claims of the indigenous people, the minister gave a phone call to advisors to request explanations about the situation of the land and after just a few minutes said he was ready to sign the administrative ruling. The minister even invited the archbishop and the Cimi secretary to take a picture of him signing the ruling, which invitation was politely turned down by the archbishop as he stressed that the act was good news for the Tupinikim and Guarani in Easter.

D. Silvestre was in Brasília to follow up on a decision made by the Subregional East II Office of the CNBB in Espírito Santo on February 28 to send letters to federal authorities asking them to demarcate the Caieiras Velhas II indigenous land, to cancel a license granted to the Thotham Industrial mining company to exploit ores in areas around the indigenous territory, and to create the Marinho de Santa Cruz National Park immediately.

The archbishop also had a meeting with the minister of Environment, José Carlos Carvalho, who promised him that he would personally see to it that the Marinho de Santa Cruz National Park is created. The minister also said that he will review the license granted to the Thotham mining company to exploit limestone algae (marine biodetritic sediments) in the shoreline of Santa Cruz, after hearing the arguments of D. Silvestre about the serious environmental and social impacts caused by the undertaking.

In addition to securing the license despite strict legal impediments, the company, owned by Eduardo Marinho Christoph, grandnephew of Roberto Marinho, owner of the Globo Network, was also given a 5-hectare area (which later on was reduced to 2.5 hectares) inside the Caieiras Velhas II indigenous land as a gift from the city hall of Aracruz to dry limestone sediments taken from the sea.

Brasília, 21 March 2002
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi

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