Maori journalists make unprecedented trip to witness Guarani plight

April 5, 2013

The Guarani are fighting to return to their ancestral land. © Fiona Watson/Survival

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A team of Indigenous Maori journalists from New Zealand has visited the Guarani Indians of Brazil, to investigate their plight.

Their 2-part report, entitled ‘Silent Genocide’, was broadcast last week on Maori Television, and is the first of its kind.

The journalists visited several Guarani communities which are fighting for their ancestral land. At the community of Pyelito Kuê, they witnessed the ‘resilience’ of the Guarani living trapped between a river and farmland, enduring food shortages and violent attacks by gunmen.

Maori journalists visited Guarani trapped between a river and farmland. © Maori Television/ Survival

Reporter Renée Kahukura Iosefa comments, ‘While the Guarani starve, they watch the farmers’ fields flourish before their eyes’.

The Pyelito Indians recently celebrated progress in the demarcation of their land, but require the government to act fast so they can lead safer lives.

The report also outlines the brutal situation of the Guarani, who have been forced off their lands to make way for ranches, and for soya and sugar cane plantations for biofuel production.

US food giant Bunge is just one of the companies which is sourcing sugar cane from Guarani land.

The Guarani and Survival are urging the Brazilian government to return their land to them, as it is legally obliged to do. In the meantime, the Indians suffer from malnutrition, violence, murder, and one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

Damiana Cavanha lives on the side of a main road with other members of her community, Apy Ka’y, which is waiting for its land to be demarcated. Three of her sons have been run over and killed. Damiana told the Maori, ‘This is not the farmer’s land. This is Guarani Indigenous land’.

Guarani leaders like Damiana are often targeted by ranchers’ gunmen as a result of their campaign to redeem their ancestral land. Tonico Benites is one of numerous Guarani leaders who have suffered recent death threats. He told the journalists, ‘I will not stop. I will die fighting’.