On March 22nd, Brazilian riot police armed with batons, tear gas and pepper spray removed the group of Indians, including old people, children and their supporters, from the former Museum of the Indian building, located a few metres from the famous Maracanã stadium.
A few days earlier, the bailiffs handed over a 72 hour eviction letter to the Indians requesting all residents to leave the place peacefully. Sergio Cabral, Rio de Janeiro’s governor, could have prevented their eviction but no measures were taken.
The Indians were prepared to resist, with barricades all around the mansion, but after failing to reach any agreement with the riot police most of them decided to leave the building.
According to one of the Indians’ supporters, police violently forced their way in while the Indians were making a final farewell ceremony around the building. A video of the eviction can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG5mzdW9g0s&feature=player_embedded
As a result of the police invasion, some residents from the Maracanã Indigenous Village were injured, among them a four-year old boy who was hurt by pepper spray and a pregnant woman who was forcibly restrained and arrested.
Even before the eviction, many members of social movements, students, researchers, representatives of universities, popular committees, artists, national and international Human Rights organizations, international networks and other civil society organizations had lent their support to the indigenous leadership at Maracanã Village.
Among the supporters, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso and Milton Nascimento expressed their solidarity with the Indians at their live concerts and in the Brazilian national media. Also Marta Suplicy, Culture Minister, and the Federal Congressman Marcelo Freixo, chairman for the Committee for Human Rights in the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro, who was present at the policeinvasion. ‘Justiça Global’, a Human Rights organization in Brazil, asked the UN to investigate the violence against the Indians.
The Indians established the community over six years ago to prevent the government from demolishing this historic mansion, which had lain empty for more than three decades.
A giant car park, big enough for 2000 vehicles, was the Rio de Janeiro government’s preferred option for use of the land during these years, although, a church, a shopping mall and a football museum were also mooted. As stated by Urutau, one of the Indigenous leaders at ‘Aldeia Maracanã’, no plans involving the Indigenous people have ever been officially considered for the location.
After the Indians’ efforts in various extended court cases and a failed attempt on January 12 to evict and relocate them, the State of Rio de Janeiro conceded that the mansion at Maracanã Indigenous Village would not be demolished.
The Indians asked for the building to be preserved as an Indigenous Cultural Centre and reference point for Indians and researchers from around Brazil and abroad, but the government plan is to refurbish the building to create an ‘Olympic Museum’ ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.
On Monday 25 March, after a meeting with 10 Indians and members of the Parliament in Rio de Janeiro, some of the Indian leadership decided to take the case to the Congress in Brasilia. According to their lawyer, the group has written a letter to the Human Rights Minister, Maria do Rosário, detailing the history of their connection with the historical building and requesting its preservation.
The ‘Maracanã Village’ is not the only recent case of eviction in Rio de Janeiro. With the approach of the mega events to be hosted in Brazil, many communities have been affected by forced eviction to open up space for new sports’ venues and facilities.
You can read more about the background to this imperial mansion and the development of the indians’ projects at ‘Aldeia Maracanã’ in my previous post, which includes a video of interviews with some of the Indians.
Images by ‘Rio40Caos’
There is also another very informative video about the preparations for Brazil’s mega events by Paêbirú Realizações.