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São Paulo, 15 March. Despairing of finding justice in Brazil, cacique Ladio Veron of the Guarani Kaiowá indigenous people in Mato Grosso do Sul, has set out on a 3 month trip to 10 European countries to appeal for help in reclaiming the lands taken from them by successive Brazilian governments, and now occupied by ranchers, farmers and sugarcane industries. He will speak at universities, meet parlamentarians, and seek support for the besieged and persecuted Guarani Kaiowá.
Ladio Veron will be in Britain from April 17-21. Final dates and venues to be confirmed, but the schedule includes:
April 18 – Public meeting at SOAS, Russell Square, London
April 19 – Indigenous People’s Day in Brazil. Protest at the Brazilian Embassy in London, Cockspur St, London SW1
Please confirm details with Sebastian Ordoñez Muñoz, Programme Officer at War on Want (firstname.lastname@example.org)
2014 Video interview with Ladio Veron by Tekoha Takwara
Violence, murder, rape and humiliation – that is the situation faced by the Guarani Kaiowá Indians as they fight to regain the lands taken from them by the Brazilian government and given to farmers.
“We don’t want to die any more, we want to survive. ..The congressmen have no pity for our women, old people, children…. The government is in the hands of agribusiness – we are surrounded… we are appealing for help.” –Araldo and Ladio Veron.
Marco Veron, father of Araldo and Ladio, was murdered by gunmen in 2003. The brothers themselves are threatened.
Speaking in São Paulo, the caciques recalled the seizure of their lands which began in 1953, under President Getulio Vargas, when the Indian Protection Service, the SPI — the agency which preceded FUNAI — moved all the Guarani communities and confined them in 8 ‘aldeamentos’, or villages.
MA student Clara Barbosa, a leader of the Kaiowá women’s assembly, said “they call us miserable savages.”
“Mato Grosso do Sul has become a sea of sugarcane, soy, and cattle…. Brazil has a duty to return the land to the Indians, even where there is no more forest, no more fish in the rivers, only cattle grass and pesticides. But we still want it because it belonged to our ancestors, it is sacred, we still hear the voice of our ancestors there. We are nature, we are the land.” –Clara Barbosa
The 1988 Constitution established a five year deadline for the demarcation of all indigenous areas in Brazil. But the deadline came and went, and most remained undemarcated. That was when the Guarani Kaiowá decided that the only way to get their lands back was to do it themselves, in ‘retomadas’.
Under the governments of Lula and Dilma there were no demarcations, and the present government of Michel Temer has not only chosen an openly anti-indigenista congressman, Osmar Serraglio, as his new Justice Minister, but reduced FUNAI to a toothless lion, without funds or staff. In Congess and in the government, the powerful lobby of the ruralistas calls the shots, with a series of laws and decrees that reduce the area and revoke the protection of indigenous areas.
In Mato Grosso do Sul, the 45,000 Guarani Indians, 30,000 of them Kaiowá, have no support from the local authorities or the courts. Judges have repeatedly ordered evictions of the communities who have ‘retaken’ their land from farmers. In one case they were occupying just 96 of the 9000 hectares that were originally theirs. The evictions are violent, with police using live ammunition.
“They are killing leaders, teachers and health agents,” said the caciques.
A member of the Kaiowá youth organisation, 20 year old Dani, also spoke. The day before she had received news from Dourados that her aunt had been run over and killed by a hit-and-run driver, “as though she were an animal”. The indians believe that drivers often deliberately target the people camped at the side of the road, after being evicted from ‘retomadas.’ Farmers’ leaders have been heard threatening to kill indians.
Yet Dani said, “we have hope”. Hope of seeing the day when they are no longer persecuted, but respected.
That day seems a long way off. Nowadays with a hostile government and judiciary, and little coverage in the Brazilian media, violence and harassment happen all the time. A few days ago a Kaiowá was stopped by police as he drove a truck with his old fridge in it to be repaired. They accused him of stealing it, hit him with their guns, and left him in a cell for several hours, until witnesses came to prove his innocence.
Maybe it is time for a campaign in Brazil: “Indigenous lives matter”.
All images taken from YouTube video by Tekoha Takwara.