BREAKING: Tribe attacked by gunmen in Brazil

January 24, 2016

Gunmen attacking another Guarani community in Mato Grosso do Sul, 2014 © Aty Guasu/Survival

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A Brazilian tribal community is being attacked by a large number of gunmen in southern Brazil.

The gunmen, employed by local ranchers, arrived in around ten trucks and have been firing repeatedly at the Guarani village in Mato Grosso do Sul state. They have also reportedly set fire to several houses. The attacks are continuing on a nightly basis.

The ranchers are believed to be retaliating for a land reoccupation attempted by the Guarani last week. Although the Guarani have a right to their ancestral land under Brazilian and international law, it was stolen from them to make way for ranches and plantations. The ranchers frequently send gunmen to attack the Guarani and kill their leaders, in an attempt to keep them off the land.

On January 13th the Guarani marked the thirteenth anniversary of the murder of Marcos Veron, a tribal leader killed by ranchers in the same community, known as Takuara, where the attacks are taking place.

The DOF border security forces are present but have yet to step in to prevent the violence in this area, which the Guarani describe as the “conflict zone.” The Guarani have reported the DOF is providing support for the ranchers.

The Guarani's ancestral lands have been stolen from them to make way for agro-industry © Fiona Watson/Survival

Their behavior prompted the Head of the Brazilian Congress’ Human Rights Commission to say that the DOF “acts as private security forces… to intimidate the [Guarani] leaders with the ranchers.” He added that “it’s completely possible to fix the problem. Everyone should be talking about this.”

Guarani leader Valdelice Veron said: “We are asking for help from people all around the world. We are here on our ancestral land and we will not leave.”

This is the latest phase of the ranchers’ war on the Guarani in the region. Agro-industry has subjected them to genocidal violence, slavery and racism so that their lands, resources and labor can be stolen.

Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, is calling for an end to this violence, and for the right of the Guarani to live on their ancestral land to be respected and protected. This will allow them to defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures.

Survival director Stephen Corry said: “This particular attack isn’t isolated: It’s yet another brutality in a never-ending cycle of violence against the Guarani. The violence is systemic, and made worse by the fact Brazilian security forces deliberately step back and allow the attacks to happen. This culture of impunity is claiming lives and destroying the Guarani. Brazil needs to give the tribe’s land back, it’s the only solution."