Pagina Principal  

English Report

We would like to call urgent attention to the situation of the Guarani-Kaiowá nation in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where intense violence have been committed against indigenous people.

Violence Against Indigenous People in Brazil

Paulo Maldos*


“He hung himself with a piece of rope which he tied to a tree branch.  After she arrived from school, the girl spent that entire afternoon cleaning under and around the tree.”  Suicide of Anselmo Romeiro, 12 years old, Guarani-Kaiowá, Amambai, Mato Gross do Sul.


After Lazaro’s death, Adelaide grabbed a pen and wrote her own name on her dead husband’s arm.” Murder of Lázaro Mendonça Aguero, 19, killed by his wife, Adelaide Ajala Batista, 23, at Aldeia Pirajuí, Paranhos,Mato Gross do Sul.


As we become acquainted with the 2005 data relating to the various forms of violence committed against indigenous people and communities in Brazil, we are overtaken by the feeling that the colonial invasion is not over, despite the fact that we are in the 21st Century.

         This feeling is even more disturbing when we remember that this violence takes place almost 20 years after the approval of the 1988 constitution, which changed the relation between the Brazilian State and society with reference to indigenous people, and that it takes place in the third year of a government that promised to defend Indigenous rights.

         The information in this report came from a variety of sources: accounts from victims and from the affected indigenous communities; complaints from indigenous organizations (documents, public protests); testimony from missionaries from the Missionary Indigenous Council (CIMI**), from government employees who work in the indigenous regions; and news articles from the local and national press.

         The information was sent by CIMI’s regional offices to its National Secretariat and organized in thematic spreadsheets arranged according to the type of violence committed against indigenous groups.  In order to be part of the final, all-encompassing report, each incident was confirmed by CIMI’s local teams, which verified each account’s source and veracity. 

The following analysis is based on the topics and accounts contained in the spreadsheets. We believe that by drawing closely from the original and diverse data, one can have an objective and compelling picture of the various forms of violence against indigenous people in Brazil.


Children Mortality Rate

         There were 34 reported deaths of children aged 0 to 12 months, the immediate cause being malnutrition and pneumonia. The accounts made clear that patients did not have access to medical care, that there were not enough staff and material resources available, and that mothers and newborns did not receive proper care.  The areas with the highest number of deaths were the Amazon region and the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

         There were 44 reported deaths of children between 0 and 3 years old due to malnutrition - 31 of these cases were in Mato Grosso do Sul.  There were also 37 deaths of children and adults who didn’t have access to medical care – 21 of these were children of indeterminate age.   31 of the cases took place in the Amazon Region.



There were 23 cases of suicide, all of them in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. More than half (13 cases) were related to teens between 12 and 18 years old. 

         Most noteworthy is the fact that all suicide cases were among the same people, the Guarani-Kaiowá, and in the same state, Mato Grosso do Sul.  This reveals the isolation and lack of prospects to which the Guarani-Kaiowá community has been submitted in that state - their territories are brutally invaded by farmers, and the government has not demarcated the land.

Even more disturbing are the cultural characteristics and age group in suicide cases, which have become a common occurrence among young Indigenous people. Another characteristic of the suicides is that the victims seem to make private decisions to kill themselves, adding to the pain and sense of powerlessness that these challenging situations bring to the indigenous communities.


Murder of Indigenous people

           In 2005, there were 33 reported murders of indigenous people.  The majority (23 of them) took place in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Many cases are classified as committed by unknown assailants, which reinforces the impunity of the killers and of those who hired them. In some cases, the murders were committed by gangs that were armed by the farmers who had invaded indigenous land.

It is important to highlight the murder of a leader of the Truká nation and his teenage son in Pernambuco at the hands of military policemen.  The Indigenous leader had a prominent role in the retaking of native land. The circumstances of the double homicide indicate that the killings were premeditated and supported by the local authorities. 


Attempted Murders

In 2005, there were 22 cases of attempted murder, 18 of them in Mato Grosso do Sul. Some of the cases involve multiple victims, as many as 5 or even 20 people. Here too the cases are recorded as committed by unknown assailants, or groups hired by the farmers who invaded Indigenous land. 

          It is important to point out that two of these cases took place during the retaking of land by the Guarani-Kaiowá e Guarani-Ñandeva communities.  The aggressors were hired by the farmers. 


Death Threats

         There were 12 death threats, 7 of which were in the Amazon region, 1 in the state of Bahia, and 4 in Mato Grosso do Sul, where the largest number of cases took place.

         Hired gunmen made recurrent death threats against entire indigenous communities, their leaders or community groups.  Three of these cases took place in the state of Roraima, and were related to the struggle for the ratification of the Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous Area. Other cases took place in communities involved in struggles to retake their long-established land. 


Sexual Violence

There were 17 reported cases of sexual violence, 7 of them in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.  It is important to point out that in 12 of the cases, the victims were between 8 and 16 years old.

Here we notice that frequently the assaults are committed by relatives of the victims or by non-indigenous people working as contractors for government agencies.  It is important to point out the case of a pregnant 15-year old woman who was sexually assaulted while in labor by the very doctor who was supposed to attend to her.  This doctor had a known history of sexual assault against pregnant indigenous women and girls, while they were in the care of government agencies, and yet he was allowed to continue working in the area.

Other cases of sexual assault of Guarani and Kaingang children and teens from the Terra Indígena Rio das Cobras took place in the state of Paraná, where the BR-277 highway crosses the state.  Drivers traveling through the BR-277 persuaded young indigenous girls who sell arts and craft by the side of the road to become prostitutes.


land conflicts

There are numerous charges against farmers, national and foreign companies for invading Indigenous land, causing deforestation, removal of timber, taking over the land for cattle raising, for planting rice and soy, for sewage dumping, appropriation of traditional knowledge, among other destructive projects.

         These complaints come from all regions of the country.  The information gathered by CIMI shows that at least 70 nations have been affected. Another problem is eviction and displacement of indigenous communities.

Eight of these cases were registered against the Guarani-Kaiowá and Terena nations, all of them in Mato Grosso do Sul. Even though the Ministry of Justice has recognized these lands as belonging to indigenous people, local judges decided in favor of the farmers, and allowed the police to use force to remove the communities. In some cases, the military police carried out violent evictions, even without legal consent.

         Distribution of Alcoholic Beverages:  

There are eight reported cases, seven of them in Mato Grosso do Sul, that point to store owners being responsible for the distribution of alcohol beverages, which results in fights and violence within Indigenous communities.  There are also 2 cases, one involving a drunken 4-year old child, and the other involving the death of a 15-year old due to alcoholic coma, both in Mato Grosso do Sul.



         Based on the information gathered in this document, we can conclude that violence against Indigenous people is mainly caused by:

  • Those who invade indigenous territories, who are generally farmers and their hired gunmen, companies involved in timber extraction, hunters and fishermen, organized in armed groups that invade the land, kill, wound, threaten, rape and rob indigenous people.
  • The military and federal police who, empowered by the decisions of local judges, force the displacement of Indigenous communities.
  • State agents who hold stereotypical and discriminatory views about indigenous communities and violate their rights.
  • The Brazilian government which fails to guarantee the indigenous populations the right to their land, to life, to basic and specialized health care, to defense against their aggressors, and protection of their material and cultural assets. 

        From the information we gathered, we note one alarming tendency that is worth pointing out: the violence committed by indigenous people against members of their own communities.  This is an obvious process of internalizing the violence surrounding the indigenous communities, and a result of the disintegration of their communal way of life brought about by the loss of their traditional land and the total lack of perspective for survival. 

        We would like to call urgent attention to the situation of the Guarani-Kaiowá nation in the sate of Mato Grosso do Sul, where intense violence has been committed against indigenous people.

Finally, we want to highlight that the information and analysis contained in this brief document should make us reflect on the immense debt the Brazilian State owes to indigenous nations.

It is clear that the indigenous population in Brazil is a long way from having their constitutional rights assured, and more importantly, having their basic rights to life and survival, with autonomy and dignity, guaranteed.


* Paulo Maldos is a political advisor for the Missionary Indigenous Counsel (CIMI).

** Acronym in Portuguese