Do not take our land for your dam: Stunning stand-off between Amazon Indian tribe and government in Brazil over hydroelectric water scheme
The Brazilian government is to send 110 soldiers to intervene in a land dispute between indigenous tribes claiming their ancestral territory and a local politician who owns the cattle ranch.
One member of the Terena tribe was killed in the row as police tried to evict the 200-strong group last week. The group reoccupied the farm on Friday and the dead man’s cousin was injured on Tuesday when he was shot by an unidentified attacker.
Two other tribe members are missing.
Troops are to arrive in the farm state of Mato Grosso do Sul to try to prevent more violence, officials said. Protests have now erupted across Brazil as tensions rise over farmland and the sites of hydroelectric dams in the Amazon.
Justice minister Jose Cardozo told reporters: ‘We must avoid radicalizing a situation that goes back a long way in Brazilian history.
'We're not going to put out the flames by throwing alcohol on the bonfire.'
About 2,000 Kaingang and Guarani Indians were blocking roads in Rio Grande do Sul state to protest the government’s decision to halt the handover of ancestral lands to indigenous communities, a concession to Brazil’s powerful farm lobby.
'The government has abandoned us. [President Dilma Rousseff] isn't supporting indigenous peoples,' Indian chief Deoclides de Paula told Reuters by telephone from a blocked highway.
In Curitiba, the Parana state capital, 30 Kaingang Indians invaded the offices of the ruling Workers’ Party on Monday and only agreed to leave ten hours later when they were promised a meeting with Rousseff’s chief of staff, Gleisi Hoffmann.
Hoffmann, who will run for governor of Parana next year, said last month that the role of the government’s Indian affairs office, Funai, in land decisions would be restricted.
Cardozo stressed that Funai would continue to play a central role as the main institution that defends Indian rights, though others will be brought in to improve the process of deciding ancestral lands.
Brazil’s indigenous land policy, established in the country’s constitution, is considered one of the most progressive in the world, with about 13 per cent of the huge South American nation’s territory already set aside for Indians.
Farmers say Funai is trying to create reservations on land that has belonged to European-descended settlers for 150 years.
In another move to ease tensions with Brazil’s indigenous population, minister Gilberto Carvalho met Munduruku Indians flown to Brasilia on air force planes from the Tapajos, the only major river in the Amazon basin with no dams.
They want the government to shelve plans to build a dozen dams there, while the government hopes to finish work on the controversial Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River, a huge project aimed at feeding Brazil’s fast-growing demand for electricity. Talks were suspended after a day.
Last week Indians paralyzed work at one of three building sites at Belo Monte, which is slated to become the world’s third-largest dam, capable of producing 11,233 megawatts of electricity - equivalent to about 10 per cent of Brazil’s total current generating capacity.
Belo Monte is a pet project of the president but has become the target of international criticism by environmental groups.
It has also become a stage for Indians from other parts of the Amazon.
'We went to see for ourselves what a hydroelectric dam is and we saw that it has nothing good in store for us,' a Munduruku leader told Carvalho, adding that promised development had not benefited the Indians of the Xingu.
'We saw Indians being humiliated and we do not want that for our region.'
Source: Daily Mail
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