Village torched as Guarani Indians evicted from land

September 17, 2009

The Guarani of Laranjeira Ñanderu, forced to camp by the side of a road. © CIMI/Survival

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A community of 130 Guarani-Kaiowá Indians in Brazil have this week been evicted from their land. They are now living under tarpaulins on the side of a busy highway, with no access to running water or food.

After being evicted, unidentified people set fire to the village, destroying the Indians’ houses, property and animals. Survival has protested to the Brazilian authorities.

The community, known as Laranjeira Ñanderu, was evicted from its ancestral land in the 1960s by cattle ranchers who have occupied the land since then.  They secured a court order for the police to evict the Guarani, who had moved back on to part of their land in December 2007 after years of living in an overcrowded reserve. One Guarani elder declared ‘I was born here. This is our land. We have nowhere else to go’.  

The evictions come in the week that the award winning feature film ‘Birdwatchers’ is launched in the UK.  The film is the first to star Guarani actors and, although a drama, accurately portrays the desperate situation of the tribe today.  

Eliane Juca da Silva, one of the Guarani actors, said at the film’s launch in Venice last  year, ‘It makes me weep to know that so many of our children are dying… We just want the chance to continue living… All we want is some land to plant and to hunt.’

Over 500 Guarani have committed suicide in the last two decades (the youngest just nine years old) as they see no future without land.  Most live in over crowded reservations where violence, alcohol and malnutrition are rife.

In 2007 the Attorney General’s office ordered the government to survey and demarcate all traditional Guarani territories, but the project is bitterly opposed by farmers and cattle ranchers who are supported by the state government, and it has ground to a halt.

The UN’s top official on Indigenous peoples released a critical report last month on Brazil, in which he singled out the chronic land conflict in the Guarani’s territory, where ‘Indigenous peoples suffer a severe lack of access to their traditional lands.’

Survival International has set up the Guarani Survival Fund, in association with Marco Bechis (director of Birdwatchers), to support the Guarani.  All the money donated will go towards helping the Indians to defend their rights, lands and futures.

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival, said today, ‘It is terribly ironic that in the week the film Birdwatchers opens in the UK, Guarani Indians are once more evicted from their lands and left to survive by the side of a highway.’

For more information and images please contact Miriam Ross:
T (44) (0)20 7687 8734 or (44) (0)7504543367
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