News-Letter Nr. 568

The presence of Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe leaders garantees the suspension of court orders

The judges of the Federal Regional Court (1st region), Maria Isabel Gallotti and Selene Maria and the judge Reynaldo Soares da Fonseca suspended eight of the 11 court orders concerning claims of land rights conceded to the farmers who are occupying the Caramuru-Catarina Paraguaçu land belonging to the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe people in Bahia by the Federal Judge of Ilhéus, Pedro Holliday, at the beginning of May. This partial victory was a consequence of the presence of indigenous leaders in Bras¡lia.

Agnaldo Pataxó, a councillor in Pau-Brasil, considers that these decisions represent a step forward in relations with the judges, "especially since some of them changed their minds after we had visited them. We went there and told them the truth and those that were in a position to take the decision, ended up favoring us", he said. "Our presence here, together with that of Cimi, was very important, so that we could show them our reality", the tribal chief Marilene stressed.

The other three court orders had their suspensions denied by the judge, who decided in favor of the farmers Antonio Carvalho Reis, Antonio Rodrigues and Matilde Dias Guimarães. The Federal Public Prosecutor and Funai must appeal against these decisions.

The Federal Police operation to carry out the court orders to return possession of the lands is timetabled for tomorrow (20th). According to the Chief of Police for Ilhéus, Nelson Gaspar Pires Neto, 150 policemen, seven officers and two helicopters will be involved in the operation. In the event that the Federal Police manage to return the lands, it will represent around 2,000 hectares. "I hope that the Federal Police do not go to the area, because we do not know if we'll be able to convince our family members to wait or if we will have to resist like the majority want" Agnaldo said.

In a meeting at the Ministry of Justice yesterday, which was attended by federal representatives, the president of Funai, plus representatives of the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Special Human Rights Secretariat, the Federal Attorney's Office and Cimi, the leaders said that they would not leave the lands and would die for their people. "If the police go there to confront us, we will confront them and, if necessary, we will die," said Marilene. The representatives promised to call on those government representatives that work with indigenous issues to guarantee the rights of the indigenous peoples.

Twenty-three Senators ask Lula for commitments to the indigenous peoples

Concerned about the systematic disrespect shown to indigenous people's rights in Brazil, twenty-three senators sent a signed petition to ask the President of the Republic to pay greater attention to this question.

As evidence of this disrespect, the senators drew attention to the tough words contained in the final documents produced at the seminar "Respect for the Indigenous Peoples" and at the "National Meeting of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations in Brazil," which took place in March and April this year, respectively.

In the petition, the alarming number of homicides committed in the first few months of this year - a total of 15, more than in 2002 - is directly related to the problem of land rights. "The lack of administrative demarcation of indigenous lands contributes greatly to the worsening conditions of increased violence which have, unfortunately, been seen to be taking place in indigenous lands, resulting in the deaths of leaders and members of their communities," the letter states.

Recalling the historical commitment of the Labor Party to the indigenous cause, the senators have asked the President of the Republic to endeavor to set up the Indigenous Policy Committee, and for the immediate homologation of the Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous land, as well as all the other lands that depend on only Lula's signature.

As far as Cimi is concerned, faced with the serious situation concerning the indigenous issue, it has become necessary for the indigenous people and their allies to urgently mobilize in order to put an end to all the violence and tyranny suffered by indigenous peoples.

Brasília, 19 June 2003.
Cimi - Indianist Missionary Council

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