By Iona Teixeira Stevens

While Brazil looks forward to its future as an agricultural power, many of its rural areas continue to be marred by violent conflicts over land that have continued unchecked from one decade to the next.

In the state of Mato Grosso do Sul (one of the country’s biggest sources of beef, soy and corn exports) an indigenous tribe located near the border with Paraguay, the Kaiowá Guarani, was attacked this morning by gunmen, according to Cimi, the indigenous missionary council. The tribe’s chief Nísio Gomes was executed and his body was taken away on a truck. This follows violent conflict between the Amazonian Indians and ranchers over land.

Earlier this year in Acre, an Amazonian state bordering Peru, a Peruvian paramilitary group surrounded the area where an isolated indigenous tribe lived, possibly in the attempt to massacre them, according to Funai, the indigenous national foundation.

This comes at a time when Brazil and Peru are investing in big infrastructure projects. One of these, the proposed inter-oceanic highway, is expected to cross Acre, providing access to the Pacific Ocean and the vast market beyond of China for agricultural exports from the state. But the road could also facilitate drug trafficking in the region and pilfering of land by ranchers and illegal settlers.

Indigenous populations are not the only victims of violence caused by land conflict. According to the Pastoral Land Commission, a rights group tied to the Catholic church, land conflict in 2010 was the direct cause of 34 murders, 125 death threats and 90 acts of violence against independent activists, small landholders and members of Brazil’s “landless movement”, a group fighting for agrarian reform. Most of these incidents happened in areas where agricultural projects are expanding.

Brazil is aiming to become the world’s biggest agricultural producer. But it should learn from the lessons of the US and others and avoid writing this part of its history in blood.

Source: FinancialTimes

Brazil indigenous Guarani leader Nisio Gomes killed

Mr Gomes was also a religious leader or shaman

An indigenous leader in southern Brazil has been shot dead in front of his community, officials say.

Nisio Gomes, 59, was part of a Guarani Kaiowa group that returned to their ancestral land at the start of this month after being evicted by ranchers.

He was killed by a group of around 40 masked gunmen who burst into the camp.

Brazil’s Human Rights Secretary condemned the murder as “part of systematic violence against indigenous people in the region”.

In a statement, Human Rights Minister Maria do Rosario Nunes said the region in Mato Grosso do Sul state was “one of the worst scenes of conflict between indigenous people and ranchers in the country”.

She said those responsible must not be allowed to escape with impunity.

Mr Gomes was shot in the head, chest, arms and legs and his body was then driven away by the gunmen, community members said.

His son was reportedly beaten and shot with a rubber bullet when he tried to intervene.

Unconfirmed reports say two other Guaranis were abducted by the gunmen and may also have been killed.

Many of the community’s 60 residents fled the camp to hide in the surrounding forest

Tribe defiant

The incident happened near the town of Amambai near the border with Paraguay.

Federal Police and representatives of Brazil’s main indigenous organisations have travelled to the area to investigate the killing.

“The people will stay in the camp, we will all die here together. We are not going to leave our ancestral land,” one of the Guaranis told the Roman Catholic Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) .

CIMI said the community wanted to recover Mr Gomes’s body so he could be buried in the land he tried to defend throughout his life.

Source: BBC News Read more

Opinion:

Guarani makeshift camp

Brazilian indigenous people are forced to live like this while their land is destroyed by ranchers fighting to produce crops for biofuels.

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