News-Letter Nr. 531

Neglect of the Goverment aggravates situacion of the Pataxà in the south tip of the state of Bahia

The continuous neglect of the federal administration has been increasingly aggravating conflicts involving the Patax¢ People in the south tip of Bahia. This situation exposes the indigenous people to acts of violence such as the ones that took place on September 15, when hoodlums hired by farmers, assisted by the Military Police, expelled 30 Patax¢ families from the Pequi village, and on the 16th, when an eviction action for repossession was carried out in the Santo Agostinho farm by 400 military police officers. Antiindigenous groups have launched a slander and persecution campaign against the Patax¢. The indigenous people are being accused of being invaders and thieves, in addition to being prevented from selling their products, particularly coccoa, on allegations that the coccoa was stolen.

Another serious issue is the lack of communication and understanding between Incra and Funai on what measures should be taken in relation the certain camps set up in indigenous lands, which have given rise to conflicts between landless rural workers and some Patax¢ communities. On September 16, the Patax¢ of the Craveiro village retook part of a land area that had been occupied by 12 families of landless rural workers. This action generated a tense climate and heated debates at a meeting between representatives of Incra and Funai and indigenous leaders and leaders of the Landless Movement (MST).

The meeting was held on the 23rd of this month in Itabuna, and was attended by Incra's ombudsman for land affairs, Geraldo Edmundo Alves Portela; Funai's administrator in Eun polis, Sandro Penalty; Ana Maria, attorney of the agency, and lawyer Valdir Mesquita, who represented the indigenous community. An expert anthropologist of the Attorney General's office in the state of Bahia, Sheila Brasileiro, represented the Office of the Attorney General in Ilh‚us.

The discussions held at the meeting showed that the two federal agencies were not aware of the "Conduct Adjustment Commitment" assumed between the two agencies in October 1999.

Under that commitment, they undertook to solve the problem, as provided for in its Clause Four: "by November 2000, render null the administrative act that created the Reunidas Corumbau settlement project through an invocation to the distinguished Steering Director of the Independent Governmental Agency, as well as resettle beneficiary families that were settled in indigenous lands in other areas and take due measures for Funai to indemnify them for useful and necessary improvements made in good faith in indigenous lands by the families to be resettled". So far, Incra and Funai have not taken concrete steps to fulfill their commitment, delaying the solution to the problem and exposing indigenous people to a conflicting situation.

Worried with what could happen as a result of this situation, the indigenous people will be holding an assembly of the Patax¢ Resistance and Struggle Front on October 2 for the purpose of evaluating the situation, defining means to avoid the invasion of their lands by landless rural workers, preparing documents describing the conflicts that are taking place in the region, and warning the competent authorities that they must take concrete measures to solve the problem urgently. Before the meeting, representatives of the Resistance Front will come to Bras¡lia to talk with some competent authorities and with the national coordinators of the Landless Movement in an attempt to find a solution to the problem.

Brasília, 26 September 2002
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi

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