Gunmen have launched a wave of attacks against Guarani Indians in central Brazil.
On 29 August Guarani leader Semião Vilhalva was shot dead one week after his community reoccupied part of their ancestral land. A one-year-old baby was struck in the head by a rubber bullet, and many others were injured.
Less than a week later, on 3 September, 30 vehicles full of ranchers and gunmen arrived at the community of Guyra Kambi’y.
They fired repeatedly at the community, forcing the Indians, including about 50 children, to flee and hide in small pockets of forest nearby. They then set fire to the Indians’ homes, destroying everything.
The Guarani had requested protection from the authorities but the police left the Guarani at the mercy of the gunmen.
Gunmen have surrounded several other Guarani communities in the region and are firing daily, encircling and threatening the Indians.
Guarani spokeswoman Inaye Gomes Lopes said, “We’ll remain firm. The ranchers think that killing Indians will solve things. No. If they kill one, 20 or 30 will rise up.”
NGOs in Brazil are calling for local parliamentarians to be investigated for their alleged involvement in the attacks.
This heightened conflict follows decades of devastation of the Guarani’s ancestral lands, now occupied by cattle ranches and sugar cane, soya and corn plantations.
Brazil’s constitution required the government to map out all indigenous territory and return it for their exclusive use by 1993, but this process has come to a stand-still and left the Guarani living in appalling conditions.
The latest attack came one day after the Minister of Justice visited the area to discuss solutions to the land conflict, which has become Brazil’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The Guarani association, Aty Guasu, said, “The ranchers and all those responsible for these barbaric crimes must be punished!” The Guarani are also demanding police protection and the mapping out of their lands.
Survival has launched an urgent campaign calling on Brazil’s government to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks, to protect the communities from further violence and to map out the Guarani’s land to prevent further bloodshed.