Gunmen in Brazil are brazenly intimidating indigenous communities with a hit list of prominent leaders, following the high profile murder of Nísio Gomes last month.
Reportedly employed by powerful landowners in Mato Grosso do Sul state, the gunmen are creating a climate of fear to prevent Guarani Indians from returning to their ancestral land.
The tactics employed in recent incidents have been almost identical. Gunmen encircle vehicles transporting Guarani, force them to stop, and then verbally abuse and interrogate passengers about the names on the hit list.
One Guarani leader told Survival, ’They’ve pinpointed us and they’re set to kill us. We’re at great risk. Here in Brazil, we have no justice. We have nowhere left to run.’
On Sunday, around 100 Guarani returning from a meeting in the district of Iguatemi were targeted. Guarani witnesses told Survival one of the four men involved was a local mayor.
The Guarani said the men shouted insults such as, ‘We’re going to burn these buses full of Indians!’ Members of a government team were also present at the scene.
Continued threats have also forced the son of an assassinated leader to flee his community. Ranchers killed Marcos Veron in 2003 after he repeatedly tried to recover a small piece of his community’s ancestral land – his son Ladio is now being targeted.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘This is yet another tragedy in a determined campaign to exterminate all Guaraní opposition to the theft of their land. The ranchers will stop at nothing to protect their interests, and it’s utterly shameful that the Brazilian government can’t stop these gunmen from acting outside the law.’
Gomes’ killers have yet to be arrested, but last week Brazil’s Public Ministry said six men had been charged with the murder of two Guarani teachers in 2009.
The accused include a notorious Brazilian rancher who held the teachers’ community hostage, and local politicians.