Removal of illegal invaders suspended

Violence by farmers illegally occupying indigenous land in the Brazilian state of Roraima has led the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) to suspend a police operation to remove them.

The farmers, who are illegally occupying the Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous territory, have been resisting removal since the police operation began at the end of March. They have injured an Indian leader by throwing a homemade bomb into his home, and threatened others with death. They have also burned three bridges leading to the territory, and blocked roads with tractors.

Brazil’s President Lula signed Raposa Serra do Sol into law in 2005, after a long campaign by the Indigenous Council of Roraima, Survival and other organisations. The area is home to the Makuxi, Wapixana, Ingarikó, Patamona and Taurepang Indians, who have suffered decades of violence and harassment at the hands of farmers and ranchers illegally occupying their land.

Most of the illegal occupants have already left Raposa Serra do Sol and have been resettled and compensated, but a small and powerful group of rice farmers, connected to politicians in Roraima state, have refused to move and have continued to threaten and intimidate the Indian communities. Their violent actions in recent weeks are in response to an operation launched by the Brazilian Federal Police, Operation Upatakon 3, to finally remove them from the area.

The Indians of Raposa Serra do Sol have written an open letter, dated 9 April, saying, ‘For more than thirty years we have suffered the painful process of regaining our land, which we believed the Brazilian State would make a reality, in accordance with the federal constitution, the rights of indigenous peoples and the President’s decree signing our territory into law.

‘We cannot accept that the authorities have waited three years to act, that they have allowed the terrorism of the last eleven days in Raposa Sera do Sol, and that the Supreme Court has even suspended the removal operation. We reject the attitude of the state government, which chooses sacks of rice to the detriment of the lives of 18,992 Indians.’

Write a letter in support of the Indians of Raposa Serra do Sol 

Read the letter from the Indians of Raposa Serra do Sol, in Portuguese