News-Letter Nr. 592

The Struggle of the Xavante People to Return to their Land

On Monday, December 1, a delegation of 40 Xavante people who are involved in the struggle to regain the Marãiwatsedé land arrived in Brasília to try and find a solution with the competent authorities for them to return to their lands, which are situated in the municipality of Alto Boa Vista, around 1,000 kilometers from Cuiabá, in the state of Mato Grosso.

The Xavante have been fighting to return to the Marãiwatsedé land for over 37 years. The land, which covers an area of 170,000 hectares and has been completely overrun, was homologated and registered in 1998 and requires only a court order for the squatters to be evicted and the indigenous people to return to it. In 2001, a federal court granted the squatters an injunction allowing them to remain where they were until the case was judged.

Tired of waiting for justice, on November 12 the Xavante set up a camp on the highway leading up to the land. At that time, more than 400 warriors were on one side of the bridge that separated them from the invaders, who were armed and trying at all cost to stop the indigenous people from going in.

In Brasília, the relevant authorities, considered by the Xavante as the final possibility for coming to an agreement which would avoid greater conflict, received the indigenous people and guaranteed solutions. The deputy Eduardo Valverde (PT-RO), coordinator of the Parliamentary Front for the Defense of Indigenous People's Rights, apologized for the failure of the "governmental apparatus." The Attorney Débora Duprat, of the 6th Coordination and Revision Chamber of the Public Prosecutor's Office, said that "the legal system has to start to account for its acts," in reference to the length of time taken to judge this case.

The Xavante warned the authorities of the possible consequences of greater conflict if the decision is not in their favor. "You won't like it if we resort to force. We, the Xavante people, are not afraid to die. The land is ours by right and this must be respected," said the leader Simão in a meeting held on December 1 with attorneys from the 6th Coordination and Revision Chamber of the Public Prosecutor's Office.

The case is to be judged by the High Court Judge Fagundes de Deus of the Federal Regional Court of the 1st Region, who on two consecutive occasions decided against the Xavante. On December 2, the judge met with two of the people's leaders who explained the situation in which they found themselves and reconfirmed their decision to enter the area at any cost.

Fagundes de Deus said that he was not aware of the seriousness of the conflict and of the situation of the land. "This is the first time these facts have been brought to my attention. We, the members of the Court, recognize that indigenous people have their own culture and we respect it. When we take our decisions we try to avoid any bloodshed." The judge was made aware of the current situation of the people and their land.

The Public Prosecutor's Office and Funai launched an appeal yesterday which would allow the indigenous people to return to a part of their land until the case is judged by the Court. The place in question is a ranch belonging to a squatter known as "Paraíba" who the Xavantes say is "known to" the indigenous people. Paraíba has been threatened with death by the ranchers in the region because of his harmonious relationship with the Xavante and has decided to leave his land and make it available to the indigenous people. It covers an area of around 2,000 hectares.

The Xavante are returning to Mato Grosso today and are already planning to return to their land if the decision is in their favor. On the other hand, the situation in the region is very tense. The invaders are mobilizing themselves to try to prevent the Xavante from getting in. According to Edson Beiriz, the Funai Administrator, the organization is arranging security to guarantee the presence of the Xavante in their own land.

Indigenous People of the Amazon Speak out about the Terrible Situation of the Health Care Service

The calamitous situation which the health care service in the Alto Solimões and Purus river regions is facing is being made public by the General Council of the Ticuna Tribe (CGTT) and by the Médio Purus Indigenous People's Organization (Opimp). The precarious service offered by Funasa and the lack of resources are causing outrage among the communities of these regions, who guarantee that they will occupy the headquarters of Funasa in Tabatinga, in the Western Amazon region, if action is not taken.

"People are outraged by the situation. We should have organized four vaccination campaigns this year, but could only carry out two. The staff have not been paid and their families need to be fed," claims Paulo Roberto de Abreu Bruno, administrative coordinator for the Special Indigenous Peoples' Sanitary District (DSEI), of the Alto Solimões region.

The Ticuna's organization took over the management of the Sanitary District of Alto Solimões in April 2002. Since then, it has faced enormous difficulties. The delays in receiving funds and the lack of attention paid to indigenous people is causing indignation. The communities are not being served and the staff are not being paid.

In the Purus river region, Opimp sent an official letter to the Attorney General's Office asking the Public Prosecutor's Office to intervene so that the agreement reached can be fulfilled.

Brasília, 04 December 2003
Cimi - Indianist Missionary Council

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