Farmers and the Government of Mato Grosso foster conflict among the Xavante

Image: Adriano Gambarini/OPAN

A group of Xavante Indians met with the President of the Supreme Court with a request that surprised judge Carlos Ayres Britto. It happened on May 10th, shortly after the hearing in the House of Representatives where the emergency of the return of traditional lands to the Guarani Kaiowa (in the state Mato Grosso do Sul) and the Xavante of Maraiwatsede (state Mato Grosso) was stressed. In the presence of chief Damian Paridzané (who does not accept a land swap), a group of Xavante Indians, accompanied by a lawyer who said to represent them, asked the Supreme Court to postpone its decision in the process that will determine the removal of invading farmers from Maraiwatsede. They claimed they still needed time to define a position on the possibility of exchanging their land for another area offered by the government of Mato Grosso.

This was the latest in a sequence of counter-intelligence promoting actions, orchestrated by the government of Mato Grosso and the farmers who devastated 85% of the Indigenous Land Maraiwatsede. From the moment that governor Silval Barbosa signed bill 9.564, which offers the State Park of the Araguaia River to the Federal Government so that the Xavante from Maraiwatsede could be transferred there* – ignoring the history of the Xavante people as well as environmental legislation which does not allow this type of changes in fully protected areas – the Indians complain that lawyer Luiz Alfredo Feresin de Abreu has offered benefits to those who accept the proposal of the state of Mato Grosso.

According to the indians, the lawyer has offered cars and cattle to the Xavante who agree with the land exchange. The Legislative Assembly of Mato Grosso would also have paid for some Maraiwatsede Xavante living outside of Maraiswatsede, to go on a flight to explore the area of the park.

According to Mendelson Coutinho Garcia, secretary of environment, agriculture and tourism from the municipality of Novo Santo Antonio (within which lies the State Park of Araguaia), the municipality has not been consulted about the land swap and disagrees with the possibility of transferring the Xavante there. “We came here to find out if the governor is negotiating through some deputies, because neither the population of Novo Santo Antonio nor the Indians have been informed. Yet, everyone saw two flights and we even have photos proving it” he said. The statement was made on March 13, 2012, when a delegation of politicians from Novo Santo Antonio and Xavante representatives from Maraiwatsede went to the governor’s chief of staff to demand explanations on the government’s role in the negotiations on the removal of the indians from Maraiwatsede. “We know that the airplanes only landed inside the park after a phone call to deputy Riva,” Garcia replied.

“We had an opportunity to speak with lawyer Luiz Alfredo, together with the FUNAI (National Indian Foundation) from the regional coordination of Ribeirão Cascalheira. We talked about the division of the area and the exchange of Maraiwatsede with the State Park of Araguaia. But that is not what we want, so we said to Luiz Alfredo that the community does not accept this division nor the land swap”, says Joseph of Arimateia Tserewamriwe Tserenhitomo, grandson of the chief.

According to the indians, the words of the chief Damian Paridzané were to no avail, because the lawyer continues his pilgrimage in search of signatures of other indians willing to negotiate the exchange of Maraiwatsede, even when living in other villages and having no legitimacy in the community to take such a position.

“We keep an eye on Luiz Alfredo. He is always looking for indians who are not from here, negotiating with them, buying their pictures and identities. We know about this. We do not accept money from Alfredo. He wants to damage the community of Maraiwatsede. He knows how to talk into the indians and pollute their minds, making them rebel against their own brothers “, says chief Damian Paridzané.

The document containing signatures of Xavante indians from other areas was criticized by the Xavante from Maraiwatsede. “Luiz Alfredo put together a strategy gathering Indians from other villages in other regions, taking copies of their documents to try to prove that they are from Maraiwatsede, but in reallity they are not. It is a lie, a false strategy. I warn you that this is a false document, from people who do not live in our village but were willing to sign because of the money. So Luiz Alfredo took copies of their IDs, managing to collect quite a few of them, and used them to prove that many indians were willing to accept the land swap. But it was not signed by people from the village of Maraiwatsede. It was signed by indians from Parabubure, San Marcos, Pimentel Barbosa, who have nothing to do with our community”, detailed Arimateia.

The Xavante have filled several complaints at the Federal Prosecutors office in Mato Grosso about the activities of lawyer Luiz Alfredo Feresin de Abreu, and they all reaffirm their rejections of the land swap idea. “We do not want to exchange our land. The state does not provide for our offspring. Our grandfathers never wandered in that region. The area is unknown”, said Damian.

“I guarantee that I will not give up. Since I started fighting, I have always told any farmer, mayor, whoever it is: I do not want to split the area. Because we have already lost so many areas! Maraiwatsede means the whole area. It was already reduced when it was demarcated. We want to cultivate the land for our youth and children so they have food and can grow healthy. That’s what I want, “says the chief.

*All indigenous lands are property of the federal government.

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