Fiona Watson/Survival
Damiana Cavanha, Guarani leader. Five of her relatives were run over and killed in 2014. Her community has been forced to live alongside the busy highway pictured yet again.

‘The Dead Have a Voice’: Indigenous Evicted, Displaced

Rick Kearns

Brazilian authorities evicted a Guarani community again in July, bulldozing their homes and forcing the families to again live by the side of a major highway, where several had been killed by vehicles or poisoned to death.

On July 6, according to various sources, 100 heavily armed military police officers evicted the Apy K’ay Guarani community from their ancestral territory in Mato Grosso do Sul in northern Brazil in order to make way for an industrial scale farming operation.

This Guarani community had re-occupied their land in 2013, which resulted in legal conflicts between the Guarani (along with their national and international supporters) and ranchers with political allies. The latest development in this ongoing struggle was the eviction order signed by a federal judge that ordered military police to remove the indigenous community.

Apy K’ay Guarani Chief Damiana Cavanha, said that she and her community would not stop fighting to regain their homeland.

“We do not accept this,” Cavanha stated in an interview with Survival International (SI), an organization dedicated to tribal rights worldwide, not long after the eviction.

“I will stay here, this is my right. We have our rights. It’s not only the white people that have rights, the Guarani Kaiowá and the Indigenous Peoples also have rights. So many of us have died, so many people have been killed by the gunmen… Let us stay here, we have our Tekoha [ancestral land] and I will return to my Tekoha.”

Earlier this year Cavanha was featured in a video entitled “Apyka’I – The Dead Have a Voice” (“Apyka’I – Os Mortos tem voz” in Portuguese) that tells the story of the struggle from the indigenous perspective and was produced by the City of Araraquara’s Committee in Solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples.

In the documentary Cavanha explained that due to the nine people buried on their home territory, which includes her husband and one of her grandsons, she would not leave without a fight.

“It is because of this that I don’t ever want to leave here,” she said. “I have courage, I am not afraid of the police, of the shock forces, I am not afraid.”

National and international supporters of the Guarani community have been active in approaching political officials and publicizing the issues. SI launched their “Stop Brazil’s Genocide” campaign in April to draw international attention to the crisis in the run-up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “This is terrible news, and it is tragically all too typical of the appalling situation facing the Guarani in Brazil. We cannot sit idly by and watch the destruction of an entire people. If the Guarani’s legal right to live on their land is not respected and upheld, they will be destroyed."

As of press time there was no notice of any further legal proceedings regarding the eviction.

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