News-Letter Nr. 507

With a delay of four years, the Federal Police clear up murder of Xicão Xukuru

On April 4, the Federal Police arrested Rivaldo Cavalcante de Siqueira, one of the individuals involved in the murder of indigenous leader Francisco de Assis Araújo, known as Xicão Xukuru, which took place on May 20th, 1998, in Pesqueira, state of Pernambuco. Known as Riva de Alceu, the prisoner was the intermediary between the people who wanted Xicão dead and the gunslinger they hired to carry out the macabre task, José Libório, apparently for R$ 10,000. According to the police, Libório was killed in the state of Maranhão. The police did not reveal the names of the people behind the crime, who they believe are farmers in Pesqueira, arguing that they would very likely flee the region before the end of the investigations if they did so.

With this arrest, the Federal Police cleared up a crime that shocked the national and international public opinion with a delay of four years. Xicão Xukuru was the most important leader of indigenous peoples in the Northeast and he made powerful landowners in Pernambuco very angry when he managed to ensure the demarcation of the Xukuru Indigenous Area, located in noble lands in the "agreste"* region of that state, whose bounds were officially confirmed by the federal administration last year.

Right after the murder, the police believed that it had been a passional crime or that it had been caused by conflicts among the Xukuru themselves. However, thanks to the work of indigenous entities and to the pressure from the UN Human Rights Commission on the Brazilian Government, the police shifted their focus and began to recognize the evidence that Xicão had been murdered as a result of a land dispute. The action of large farmers in the "agreste" region of the state of Pernambuco to break the indigenous movement also led to the murders of José Everaldo Xukuru, son of shaman Pedro Rodrigues, in 1992; of Funai's lawyer Geraldo Rolim in 1995; and of Chico Quelé Xukuru in August of last year.

The police must reveal the names of the people behind the death of Xicão Xukuru and clear up the murder of Chico Quelé as soon as possible, so as to avoid more violence against the Xukuru. Five leaders of the Xucuru have received death threats recently, namely, chief Marcos Luidson de Araújo, vice-chief José Barbosa dos Santos, shaman José Rodrigues Bishop, the widow of Xikão Xukuru, Zenilda Maria de Araújo, and the president of the Association of the Xukuru People, Antônio Pereira de Araújo.

Cimi supports the cause of the Palestinian people

Paulo Suess, theological advisor to the Indianist Missionary Council, traveled this week with a Brazilian delegation to Israel and Palestine to express solidarity to the Palestinian people, who are suffering a brutal invasion and aggression from the Israeli armed forces. Suess took with him a message signed by the president of Cimi, Dom Franco Masserdotti, and its executive secretary, Egon Heck. Among other members, the delegation includes federal representatives Milton Temer (Workers' Party (PT) - Rio de Janeiro), Hélio Costa (Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) - Minas Gerais), and Antônio Carlos Pannunzio (Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB) - São Paulo), as well as journalist José Arbex, member the Organizing Committee of the World Social Forum.

Together with other international observers, the Brazilians will try to have a meeting with the president of the National Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, who has been confined over the last two weeks to what is left of his office in Ramala almost without water or food, after it was attacked by tanks of the Israeli army. The Brazilian Mário Lill, member of the Landless Movement, is with Arafat and got in touch with the Brazilian delegation by phone to say that he will only leave the site after Arafat himself is released by the Israeli government.

Brasília, April 11, 2002
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi

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