Survival International, the NGO campaigning for the rights of tribal people, has received reports that truckloads of armed men are violently driving Brazil’s Guarani from their land, leaving them in fear of their lives.
Guarani anthropologist Tonico Benites told Survival, ‘People’s lives are in imminent danger. A child could die at any moment.’
Benites reported that his uncle was left blind in one eye following a recent attack on the Guarani communities of Pyelito Kuê and M’barakai, south of the Brazilian Amazon.
Those caught up in the violence have described how they were forced to run to safety after their huts were set alight, clothes burnt and families threatened.
One Guarani man recounted, ‘Small lamps and torches were flashing in all directions, and the children and elderly people could not run. There are tears in my eyes as I write this. We have almost no more hope of surviving in this Brazil'.
Gunmen are reported to have blocked roads, destroyed a bridge that provided access to the Indians’ camp, and surrounded the Guarani, preventing food and medical supplies from reaching them.
This is one of a series of attacks on these Guarani since the beginning of August 2011. It follows attempts by the Indians to reclaim their ancestral land, which was seized by ranchers in the 1970s and has been occupied ever since.
The Guarani also faced persecution in 2003 and 2009 when they made similar moves to reoccupy their land.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, "It’s shocking that the Guarani should be repeatedly persecuted for attempting to return to land that is rightfully their own. The Brazilian government needs to act swiftly before more innocent lives are lost."
Brazil’s government has condemned the violence. Survival has written to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calling for urgent measures to be taken to protect the Guarani, and to Brazil’s Ministry of Justice, urging that Guarani land is mapped out and protected, as set out in Brazil’s own constitution.