Understanding the problem

Image: Funai

“Justice was never so demoralized as now”.
Chief Damian Paridzané, from Marãiwatsédé.

During a hearing at the House of Representatives, Dilma’s national secretary of social articulation, Paulo Maldos, acknowledged that a solution for the injustices that have affected the Xavante people from Marãiwatsédé during the past 46 years, can not be delayed. Understand why the removal of farmers may cause more conflict than it did in Raposa Serra do Sol (an indigenous land in the state Roraima).

In 1966, the Xavante people who lived in Marãiwatsédé were removed from their land by force by Brazil’s military government, and taken to the Salesian Mission San Marcos, about 400km away. There, a measles epidemic decimated a third of the group in just two weeks. At the time, the military government’s intention was to clear the area to allow the occupation frontier to advance into the Midwest and the Amazon.

The Indians were only able to return to a small portion of their territory in 2004, after camping for over 10 months on the side of the road that crosses their land. When they settled on the farm Karu, located within the boundaries of the Indigenous Land, officially recognized in 1998, they encountered a cruelly destroyed area. The deforestation rate of Marãiwatsédé was 85%, and it thus became known as the most devastated Indigenous Land of the Brazilian Amazon.

The events that led to the destruction of most of the natural resources of Marãiwatsédé and their replacement with extensive soy fields and pastures for cattle, were carefully orchestrated by politicians of the Araguaia region. Still in June 1992, while Agip and the Brazilian government pledged to return the land to the Xavante, Italian company officials, councilors, mayors and members of the government of Mato Grosso called on the local population to occupy the area and prevent the return of the indians.

Today, even though the indigenous land is officially recognized, demarcated and ratified since 1998, and the Xavante won the legal battles that require the farmers and politicians who encouraged the invasion of indigenous lands to leave, the threats to the physical, cultural and territorial integrity of the Xavante continue. Not one invader has been removed by the government, even after the verdict in October 2010 by the Federal Regional Court of the first Region in Brasilia, which recognized that the territory had been invaded in bad faith, that the Indians have the full right to the officially approved 165,000 hectares and that the occupants can not claim indemnification.

“Never was justice so demoralized as now,” complained chief Damian Paridzané from Marãiwatsédé.

As expected, politicians and farmers appealed the sentence. In 2011, governor Silval Barbosa quickly sanctioned law 9.564, authored by the President of the Legislative Assembly, José Riva and state representative Adalto de Freitas, which was presented to the public as a peaceful solution to the conflict in Marãiwatsédé. Since the war was being lost in court, political weapons were used to derail the removal of invaders from their land. The state law authorized the transfer of areas from the Araguaia River State Park (200,000 hectares) to the Federal Union in exchange for the Indigenous Land Marãiwatsédé, infringing, among other provisions, Article 231 of the Federal Constitution, which says that “the territories mentioned in this article are inalienable and unavailable, and the rights over them, imprescriptible. ”

Three days after the publication of this law, federal judge Fagundes de Deus granted the request for suspension of legal proceedings that would determine the withdrawal of the invaders. He did this even though he was fully aware of the unconstitutionality of the law, as well as of the reaction of the FUNAI (National Indian Foundation), who published a rebuttal to the measure of the government of Mato Grosso, and there was no indication that the Indians from Marãiwatsédé wanted to give up the fight for their territory after more than 45.

The judge stated: “as an agreement becomes possible thanks to the bill 215/2011, approved by the Legislative Assembly of the State of Mato Grosso and sanctioned by the Governor, authorizing the exchange of the disputed area with an appropriate area within the National Park of the Araguaia / MT in order to transform it into Marawaitsede Indigenous Land, I grant the request for suspension of the process (that requires removal of the farmers) ”

This attitude was a further blow against the Indians. “For how many years have we been patient? The court has given its verdict. The farmer’s lawyer filed an appeal to lest their retreat. We are at peace and we have been respecting the federal agency, hoping to establish justice. The big politicians are throwing worms at the heads of the little ones, just so they will agree to negotiate the exchange. We do not accept this law” said chief Damian Paridzané.

With support from the state of Mato Grosso, politicians also pressed for the creation of a municipal capital in the heart of Marãiwatsédé, which became today’s village known as Posto da Mata. It was made by the invaders and today it has a hotel, school, shops, petrol station and even a unit of the military state police.

Even today, the hostility of the neighboring farmers, mayors and important regional politicians, make the Indians suffer constant death threats. For this reason, the Xavante live together in a single village with 800 people, of whom 300 are children, inevitably exerting pressure on the scarce forest resources that are left in their territory after decades of intense devastation.

Xavante in 1960. Imagem: Funai

Image: Funai

In October 2011, Greenpeace denounced the involvement of the world’s largest slaughterhouse, JBS, in the purchase of cattle raised illegally by farmers within the Indigenous Land Marãiwatsédé, despite the fact that they had signed a Term of Conduct Adjustment regarding meat purchase procedures with the federal prosecution office. The Indians themselves denounced the dumping of pesticides near their village, damaging the health of the community, as well as the ongoing trade in land and farms within the Indigenous Land. Even so, no governmental or legal action has been strong enough to ensure the Indians access to their land – of which they only occupy less than 10% now.

“We are waiting for the court’s decision in this long struggle to expel the farmers, but we are willing to die for our land. We trust that this year the big day will come”, says the elder Tsipé Francisco.

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