News-Letter Nr. 572

Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe are removed from their lands by the federal police

Last Saturday (the 12th), the Federal Police removed about 700 Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe from seven areas in the regions of Água Vermelha, Mundo Novo and Taquari in compliance with a repossession judicial decision. The farms that were reoccupied by this indigenous people in 2000 and 2001 are located inside the 54,100 hectares of the Caramuru Catarina - Paraguaçu indigenous land, located in the state of Bahia.

The action was carried out by a group of 100 heavily armed Federal Police officers divided in three teams and three army helicopters. The indigenous people who were removed from the farms were put in plastic tents by a road near the farms, where they were left without any assistance whatsoever. The number of children among them is high, among whom many have caught diseases by now. It is raining heavily in the region and it is cold, but the people remain strongly determined to continue to struggle to return to their lands.

Last Monday (the 14th), a delegation of the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe met with the Attorney General in Ilhéus, state of Bahia. During the meeting, the indigenous leaders reported the situation their people have been facing since they were removed from their land and the bullying and threats they have been receiving from farmers and their bodyguards. According to the indigenous leaders, the farmers blocked two streets in Pau-Brazil on Sunday (the 15th) and threw a party to celebrate their "victory." The leaders asked the General Attorney's Office to take appropriate steps to prevent the threats from becoming concrete actions.

In a note, the Cimi team in Itabuna said that the situation faced by these indigenous people is unbearable. "It is outrageous and repugnant to see, on the one hand, the long time it is taking for the courts to judge the actions filed to nullify title deeds held by the farmers, which could put an end to these conflicts, and on the other hand the speedy execution of actions running counter to the rights of the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe," the note says. The team was there during the whole process of removing the indigenous people from their lands, together with representatives of the Child Pastoral of the Diocese of Itabuna.

According to Sebastião Moreira, Cimi's deputy secretary, the removal of the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe from their lands is an act of violence against the legitimate owners of these lands.

Xakriabá indigenous people report damages caused by dam built by the CODEVASF Company

The Xakriabá people, the largest indigenous people in the state of Minas Gerais, who live in the municipality of São João das Missões, is outraged with the environmental, economic, cultural and health damages caused by a dam built by Companhia de Desenvolvimento do Vale do São Francisco - CODEVASF - in the 1980s, directly affecting the Barra do Sumaré village, located in the Xakriabá indigenous land.

The indigenous people report that all that the dam did was bring problems to them. Agriculture, which constitutes the main economic activity of the Xakriabá people, was affected by the dam, which flooded large areas of arable land. Today, 15 years after the dam was built, the indigenous people are feeling its strong socioenvironmental impacts. Outraged, the Xakriabá want the agencies responsible for the construction of the dam to take steps to eliminate the problems caused by it.

After getting organized, they began to control the dam, and are threatening to open its floodgates if nothing is done to solve the problems they are facing. A meeting between the Xakriabá people and representatives of Funai, CODEVASF, Funasa, the City Hall of São João das Missões, the Office of the Attorney General and organizations that support the indigenous cause was held on July 2 for the purpose of defining urgent steps to be taken to ensure the survival and the physical, cultural and social integrity of the Xakriabá people.

The community reported that the maintenance of the dam is inappropriate and that they have not had any assistance since it was built. As a solution, the agencies took on the commitment to suggest irrigation projects to the Ministry of Agriculture, to improve the maintenance of the roads in the area for water trucks to reach it smoothly, and to build a water reservoir with two or more spouts and equipped with an artesian well to supply water to the village of Barra do Sumaré.

The Xakriabá people hope that the commitments assumed by the organizations attending the meeting will be carried out, otherwise they will open the floodgates of the dam.

Government keeps president of FUNAI

After reports in the press that Eduardo Almeida, the current president of Funai, would be fired, the government decided to keep him in the post. Last Monday, after a meeting with the minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, Eduardo Almeida denied the alleged dismissal and said that he had not received any such notification.

In Cimi's opinion, for as long as no indigenous policy is defined that truly contemplates the interests of indigenous peoples, is based on the rights ensured by the Federal Constitution, and changes once and for all the integration-oriented posture inherited from the military dictatorship, replacing people in key posts will be worthless.

While no such policy is available, clear political pressures will continue to be applied for questionable purposes and Funai structures, both in terms of physical facilities and staff, will continue to be dismantled. No competitive public examination has been held in the past 10 years for hiring new staff for the agency. In the 35 years since it was established, Funai had 30 different presidents.

Brasília, 17 July 2003.
Cimi - Indianist Missionary Council

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