News-Letter Nr. 509

Pataxó React Against Plans of the Government to Expel Them from the Pascoal Mount

Leaders of the Pataxó indigenous people, who live in the south tip of the state of Bahia, will be holding a meeting this Thursday afternoon in the city of lhéus with attorney general André Luiz Batista to ask him to take legal measures against the Participative and Integrated Environmental Management Program. The program was agreed upon on April 9 between Funai, the ministry of Environment and Ibama. According to its provisions, Ibama will now control the Pascoal Mount traditional indigenous land.

The Pataxó chiefs say that this program is a maneuver of the federal administration to postpone even more the demarcation of the indigenous territory, the identification of which began in September 1999 but has not been completed so far by the working group set up by Funai for this purpose. They say that the agreement was not discussed with Pataxó communities, was not supported by the majority of the leaders of this people and created internal division among them. They also challenge its legality, since it disrespects the constitutional right of the Pataxó to exclusive possession and use of their lands.

In order to ensure respect for their right to the land and to recover their traditional territory, the leaders of the villages of Corumbauzinho, Pequi, Barra do Caí, Aldeia Nova do Monte Pascoal, and Craveiro organized a Pataxó Resistance Front, which since April 9 has been promoting actions to reoccupy farms located in indigenous lands. These reoccupation actions have been carried out in areas controlled by influential farmers of the region, including the mayors of Itamaraju and Itanhaém (state of Bahia), who belong to the conservative Liberal Front Party. Some farmers have been reacting with threats and acts of aggression and intimidation carried out by gunmen hired by them. This has given rise to a strong tension. According to the indigenous people, gunmen have been guarding farms near the ones that have been reoccupied with the connivance of the Military Police of Itamaraju. Other farmers, however, are removing their belongings from reoccupied areas and are willing to leave the land after receiving their due compensation for improvements made in good faith, which means that they recognize the right of the Pataxó to those lands.

According to lawyer Luiz Chaves, a Cimi collaborator, the so-called Environmental Management Program agreed upon on April 9 is worse than the Behavior Adjustment Commitment that the government had proposed before, which was prepared with the participation of the Federal Prosecution Service and of representatives of indigenous people, but was rejected by the communities involved. This time, the agreement was signed by representatives of the Federal Administration only.

As the lawyer explained, the document clearly suggests in many of its provisions that the government does not recognize the Pascoal Mount Park as an indigenous land.

The lawyer also denounced that the new agreement provides for the creation of a Consultative Council composed of an equal number of representatives of governmental agencies, city halls, and even cellulose plants that are against the idea of demarcating the Pascoal Mount indigenous land of the Pataxó.

Given these circumstances, the lawyer believes that this program, which was designed to remove the Pataxó from the Pascoal Mount, is doomed to fail. And the Pataxó have pledged to intensify the fight to have this indigenous area demarcated as soon as possible.

Indigenous Leaders in Roraima React Against Army Operation and Fort

Indigenous leaders of Roraima reacted with indignation and anger to the news that the 1st Jungle Infantry Brigade will be carrying out a large military operation early next week in Pacaraima and Uiramutã, near villages located in the São Marcos and Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous lands, on the border with Venezuela and the Guyana.

According to the Folha de Boa Vista newspaper, the operation, which was named Uiramutã, will last three days and will involve airplanes, helicopters, armored vehicles, a heavy artillery group, horses, and a large number of soldiers, according to the commander of the 1st Brigade, general Claudimar Nunes. The general said that one of the objectives of the operation is to update the maps of the region and that it will culminate in the inauguration of the 6º Special Border Platoon Fort in Uiramutã.

Since this fort began to be built a few meters from an indigenous village, the presence of soldiers in the area has caused conflicts with members of the community. The coordinator of the Indigenous Council of Roraima, Jaci José of Souza, said that "we find it strange to see such a deployment of Army troops in our lands with such a display of power. In recent months, they (the military), have been entering our villages only to threaten us and to create confusion in the communities, as happened in the Lage village and even in Uiramutã." And he added: "We don't want the military in our villages, because they have always brought violence and destruction to our midst. They say they want to protect the border and bring fear to our communities, because they act as if indigenous people were their war enemies."

Participants in the Amazon Seminar: National Security and Indigenous Peoples organized by the North Cimi I office and the Archdiocese of Manaus, which was held in Manaus on April 22-25, approved a motion of repudiation against the military maneuvers and demanded that the Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous land demarcation procedure be resumed immediately, as well as the official ratification of its bounds and the removal of invaders from it.

Brasília, April 25, 2002
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi

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