An indigenous leader has been killed in central-western Brazil, after campaigning for her tribe’s ancestral land to be returned.
Marinalva Manoel, a 27-year-old Guarani Indian, was allegedly raped and stabbed to death. Her body was found on the side of a highway on Saturday.
Last month Marinalva traveled over 1,000 km to the capital, Brasília, with a delegation of Guarani leaders, to insist that the authorities fulfil their legal duty to return the land to the Guarani before more of their people are killed.
The Guarani Council, Aty Guasu, which voices the Indians’ demands, has released a letter calling on the authorities to investigate the murder, and proclaiming, “No more Guarani deaths!”
Guarani leaders are frequently attacked and killed by gunmen employed by the ranchers who are occupying indigenous land and earning huge profits from sugar cane, soya and cattle whilst the Guarani are squeezed into reserves and roadside camps.
Suffering alarming rates of malnutrition, violence and suicide, the Guarani sometimes decide to reoccupy small patches of their ancestral land stolen from them decades ago, without which they cannot survive. Seven communities which recently carried out land reoccupations, including Marinalva’s community, now face eviction orders which could force them off their land yet again.
Guarani leader Eliseu Lopes told Survival, “We are fighting for our land, and we are being killed, one by one. They want to get rid of us altogether… We are in a state of despair, but we will not give up.”