There were protests in the capital, Brasilia, after the death of Semiao Vilhalva

Landowners Kill Indigenous Leader In Brazil And Threaten More Violence

Rick Kearns

A Guarani Kaiowa community in Brazil is calling for help again after the killing of Simião Vilhalva, one of their leaders, by armed militia funded by landowners who are threatening further attacks, claiming that the indigenous have illegally taken disputed property.

On August 29, a landowner militia attacked the Guaraní Kaiowa community, killing Vilhalva and wounding others located in the town of Antonio Joao in the state of Matto Grosso, Brazil near the border with Paraguay.

RELATED: Guaranís Dying in Brazil: One Woman’s Fight to Save Them

The landowners claimed that the land belonged to them and that the Guaraní Kaiowa occupied it illegally. This indigenous community was among thousands of other Guaraní and Kaiowa peoples who reclaimed territory in that region within the last month.

They cited a 2005 ruling that confirmed this parcel of 23,474 acres belonged to those communities but a Supreme Court ruling that same year put a hold on the order of return and the case has been in legal limbo ever since. In the meantime, according to indigenous sources, close to a thousand people were pushed into an area of 370 acres of land while being threatened and assaulted on a regular basis.

International entities such as the United Nations and Amnesty International have also been trying to assist the community, especially after the murder of Vilhalva.

The Linkage of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, the largest indigenous organization in Brazil and known as APIB in Portuguese, issued a condemnation of the killing and attacks, indicating that regional and national leaders had been warned of the imminent violence. “The landowners planned this action with the participation of legislators in the rural syndicate of Antonio Joao, women and children came away wounded too. A one-year-old child was hit in the back and in the back of the neck by rubber bullet, and the ammunition comes from public security forces,” the group asserted.

“Before the attacks, the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies asked the government to step in with the military to prevent a catastrophe. The Armed Forces did not respond until after the attack by the landowners,” according to the APIB statement.

Along with the human rights advocates in Brazil, international figures such as United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights Victoria Tauli-Corpuz urged the Brazilian government to protect the Guaraní Kaiowa peoples, after hearing of reports that on August 8, local police descended on the various communities, causing fear of eviction.

By August 11, Tauli Corpuz issued a press statement about the potential conflict.

“Indigenous Peoples should not be forcibly relocated from their lands or territories,” Ms. Tauli-Corpuz said, recalling the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. “No relocation should take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples concerned and after agreement of fair and just compensation and, where possible, the option of return.”

“Given the ongoing situation of insecurity and mistrust in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, including long standing unresolved issues about ownership of traditional lands, and ongoing patterns of violence, I fear for the safety and security of the affected Indigenous Peoples, should this eviction take place,” the U.N. Special Rapporteur stressed.

In her press statement Tauli-Corpuz also noted that, “militias are being deployed to attack and intimidate communities, in a campaign to spread psychological terror and ensure the communities comply with the eviction. This is reportedly part of a pattern of long standing conflict and violence between indigenous communities and landowners, which has led to over 290 Guaraní and Kaiowa individuals, including leaders, being killed since 2003.”

Brazilian officials have not publicly responded to Tauli-Corpuz but on September 1, three days after armed landowners killed Vihlalva, President Dilma Rousseff ordered army troops to the area to contain the violence in four towns in the region and restore order according to a government press statement.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page