continued persistence of violent attitudes toward Indigenous
people on the part of the Military Police—killing, abusing,
and humiliating—is a serious problem, as are the cover ups
and impunity for these police actions. Between the years of
2005 and 2006, more than 80 Indigenous people were criminally
prosecuted in an unjust and illegal manner, in relation to
conflicts involving struggles for land.
Problems such as prejudice, unjust criminalization,
ethnic hatred, and disrespect for the rights of indigenous
peoples, still persist in Brazil.
Against Indigenous Peoples
The indices of violence against Indigenous people in Brazil in
2006 remain high, as in all preceding years. Each year, the
numbers or emphases may change, but the origin of this problem
continues to be the same. The principal cause of this violence
is the absolute lack of urgency in dealing with this issue,
within the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, as in the
case of all previous governments. This is reinforced by two
absence of resources for the demarcation of Indigenous
territories, and for the many policies that apply to
Indigenous peoples, and
dismantling of indigenous organizations—FUNAI, the National
Foundation of the Indian (Fundação Nacional do Índio)—and
many government institutions responsible for Indigenous
The federal government does not see Indigenous people as an
ethnically distinct society, to whom Brazilian society as a
whole has an enormous historical debt.
These communities have rights that precede the
formation of the Brazilian nation, and they contributed
actively to the consolidation of this nation and of its
communities need to exercise control over their own destiny,
and to guide the policies that affect them. The government
needs to allocate resources to demarcate traditional
territories of Indigenous people, assuring the implementation
of specific policies in the areas of health, education, and
January and October of 2006, 31 cases of murder of Indigenous
people were reported. In this figure, the number of murders of Indigenous people
also committed by Indigenous people deserves attention: 17. In
almost all of these 17 cases, the cause was either “internal
conflict” or “consumption of alcohol and drugs.”
Fourteen of the victims, or almost one-half of the
total, were from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, all from the
figures demonstrate that the external stresses endured by
Indigenous communities are being transferred to their
interior, causing disequilibrium in social relations, leading
to fights, exacerbating the consumption of alcohol and drugs.
The external origin of these conflicts is easy to perceive in
the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, a region where Indigenous
land has not been protected by the state government, who
defends the interests of large landowners.
In this region, Indigenous communities live confined to
marginal lands, and are subject to all sorts of violence.
same pattern was observed in relation to attempted murder
cases. That is,
of a total of 14 victims, five were also committed by
Indigenous people. Seven
cases occurred in Mato Gross do Sul among the Guarani-Kaiowá
people, and the rest in the states of Roraima, Rondônia, and
assaults committed by Indigenous people are again linked to
internal disputes in the community, and to the use of alcohol
and drugs. The violence committed by non-Indigenous people was
characterized by a brutality typical of crimes when the
motivation is strong prejudice, as in the case of an attack
upon a birthday party by masked men, who entered firing at
relation to suicides, we find the same the pattern of exterior
conflicts internalized within Indigenous communities. We call
attention, once again, to cases in the state of Mato Grosso do
Sul: 13 of the total of 14 cases in the whole of the country.
Cases of suicide occur with greater intensity in communities
characterized by insufficient land, such as the Guarani-Kaiowá
village of Dourados, where eight suicides occurred.
distinctive trait of the suicides this year was the premature
age of Indigenous victims, in great majority between 11 and 18
years old (nine cases). The
fact that young Indigenous people committed suicide is not
new. What is new this year is the increase in the cases among
adolescents, and the fact that five of these occurred among
children from 11 to 15 years old.
due to neglect
year, we documented 21 cases of children who died in
situations characterized by neglect, such as illnesses that
are easy to control and treat: diarrhea, malnutrition,
respiratory problems, and hepatitis.
were also cases reported specifically in the Valley of Javari,
in the state of Amazonas. There, the local indigenous organization, CIVAJA (Indigenous
Commission of the Valley of Javari), which brings together the
Mayoruna, Marubo, Matis, Kanamari, and Kulina peoples, has
complained that one-quarter of a population of 3,500
Indigenous people had hepatitis.
They have protested that, in the first half of this
year alone, 23 deaths occurred from hepatitis, malaria, and
deaths of Indigenous people stand out in a context of repeated
complaints by indigenous communities to the public authorities,
in thirteen states, in all regions of the country.
The following forms of neglect stand out: shortage of
treatment or bad treatment; lack of medicine; health clinics
were closed due to problems with sanitation; FUNASA (the
National Health Foundation) does not fulfill its agreements,
leading to suspension of service by health providers;
deplorable hygienic conditions in locations for treatment and
against Indigenous communities
nine states, we registered complaints of aggression against
Indigenous territories of 14 different Indigenous peoples.
These complaints included cases of deforestation by
agro-industries, illegal fishing, pollution of rivers by the
use of pesticides, mercury contamination of rivers, illegal
logging, seizure and occupation of Indigenous lands by
squatters, armed attack by gunmen, and the destruction of
homes in Indigenous communities.
is important to highlight the violence committed by the
Federal Police and the Military Police in the state of Espírito
Santo, which under the excuse of a “reintegration of
possession” order in favor of the multinational corporation,
Aracruz Celulose, violently expelled the Indigenous Tupinikim
and Guarani from their own territory. In this police operation,
nine Indigenous people were injured by bullets and bombs, and
several Indigenous homes were burned.
to studies by CIMI, more than 18% of the 382 registered
Indigenous areas suffered some sort of invasion; at least 61
recognized Indigenous communities had their land taken by
farmers and loggers. These crimes affected more than 65,000
and ethnic, racial and cultural aggression
Nine cases were reported in six different states, all
involving discrimination against Indigenous people. In the
states of Amazonas and Espírito Santo, local congressmen
engaged in anti-indigenous speech.
In the case of Amazonas, the very president of the
Legislative Assembly explicitly attacked Indigenous
communities; in the case of Espírito Santo, the congressmen
said that Indigenous people are “rowdy and vagrant.”
In the states of Goiás and Maranhão, there were
reports of discrimination and aggression towards Indigenous
people by the staff of FUNASA, the National Health Foundation,
and by employees of the Secretary of Education.
In the states of Espírito Santo and Bahia, there were
reports of violence by the Military Police. In Espírito
Santo, police officers and armed militia groups hired by
Aracruz corporation humiliated and detained 15 Indigenous
Tupinikim and Guarani.
Bahia, 15 Indigenous Tupinambá, including two adolescents,
were beaten, threatened, and imprisoned by Military Police
These cases reveal how prejudice against Indigenous
people still persists in different regions of the country, in
different areas of social life, public and private, and in
diverse Brazilian institutions.
of slave labor were reported in Mato Grosso do Sul, involving
the Guarani-Kaiowá people of Terra Indígena (Indigenous
Lands) of Dourados.
people were brought to work in the cutting of sugarcane, in
conditions of slavery. They received no payment and very
little food. As a consequence of excessive heat and excessive
work, cases of skin cancer and spinal problems are frequent.
cases of traffic accidents were reported in three states, with
a total of 11 deaths among a total of 30 victims. These cases
happened in the states of Rondônia, Roraima, and Mato Grosso
do Sul, the last with three cases that involved Indigenous
again, Mato Grosso do Sul stands out in terms of frequency in
this type of violence.
these cases, the fact that only one perpetrator has been
identified— a driver responsible for an accident that
resulted in the death of an Indigenous person—
also called our attention.
In all others cases, the drivers did not stop to offer
aid, and were not identified. In addition, no judicial process
was started to search for those people responsible for the
almost all of these cases, the victims were riding bicycles or
walking on the shoulder of the road, which demonstrates how
these communities living next to highways are vulnerable.
cases of sexual violence were registered, all of them in Mato
Grosso do Sul, almost all of them in the municipality of
cases involved victims who were Indigenous Guarani-Kaiowá.
Again, Mato Grosso do Sul is the state where these events
occurred; this time, the state accounted not merely for the
majority of cases, but for all of the crimes.
And once again, the Guarani-Kaiowá people were the
most frequently violated.
Another aspect of this type of violence is the age of
the victims: one was four years old; one was eight; two were
13. Yet another thing to highlight: in the great majority of
these cases, the assailants were Indigenous, many of them
young, who attacked the victims. The victims were almost
always a relative: stepdaughter, sister, cousin.
One more time, the context of social disintegration is
revealed in the Guarani-Kaiowá communities in Mato Grosso do
Sul, owing to the extreme stress existing in the reduced areas
in which these Indigenous people live.
offenses against Indigenous rights
We will comment on three other offenses of extreme
gravity against the rights of Indigenous people that occurred
in the course of 2006:
Aracruz Cellulose Corporation:
The traditional territory of the Tupinikim and Guarani
people, on the coast of Espírito Santo, has been invaded by
Aracruz Cellulose corporation, since the 1960s.
This territory, originally identified as 18,000
hectares, was officially demarcated with only 7.061 hectares.
In 1998, the Indigenous communities carried out a
self-demarcation, but FUNAI, with the support of the Federal
Police, kidnapped the group’s leadership and took them to
Brasília, isolating them from any sort of legal assistance.
The Indigenous leaders were forced, under threat, to sign an
unconstitutional “accord” with the company, ceding part of
their territory in exchange for payment. In May 2005, the
Indigenous communities returned to occupy part of their
traditional territory, demanding the land from Aracruz.
This effort initiated a series of legal disputes until,
in December of 2005, judge Rogério Moreira Alves, of the
Federal Magistrate of the municipality of Linhares, ordered a
land reintegration that was favorable to the company, which
forced the Indigenous people to withdraw from their land.
On January 20, 2006, a joint action of the Federal
Police forces of Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasilia,
including 120 officers, used explosives, rubber bullets,
truncheons, and machine guns against more than 200 indigenous
people that defended their lands. More than 10 Indians were
gravely injured; many were beaten, shackled, and arrested. The
military offensive had logistical support from Aracruz, with
personnel, security, and places to house and feed the police
officers. All of the houses built by the Indigenous
communities on their recovered land were destroyed.
Indigenous health services suffer from a lack of
resources, the dismantling of FUNASA (the National Indigenous
Health Department), a shortage of qualified personnel and
medication. These shortages make it difficult to provide
essential health care for epidemiological control (completing
the schedule of vaccinations, for example), for the monitoring
of indigenous health, and for the provision of medical
services to the community.
For these reasons, we registered a great number of
complaints about the conditions of community health.
According to these complaints, there has been a serious
increase in epidemics and consequent mortality, from
sicknesses like malaria and hepatitis in Amazonas, in the
region of the Valley of Javari. There are signs of an increase
in infant mortality in Mato Grosso do Sul, which has indices
of indigenous infant mortality that reach as high as 103.45
for every one thousand births (data from the newspaper, Dourados
Agora, January 30, 2006). Studies reveal high infant
mortality in these communities, with deaths of Indigenous
children less than a year old in the Northern region, three
times higher than the average of children in this region,
higher even than the rate of mortality of Indigenous people
over the age of seventy.
other regions of the country, we find the collapse of the
DSEIs (Special Indigenous Sanitary Districts), with broken
equipment and without the ability to operate; in Rio Negro in
the state of Amazonas, in the Maku-Hupta villages, where the
environment was already altered by activities surrounding the
communities, the rate of malnutrition has reached 70% and the
risk of death from diarrhea, pneumonia, and tuberculosis has
flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, malaria, leishmaniosis,
tuberculosis, hepatitis B, parasitic infections, malnutrition,
dermatitis, and, more recently, even arterial hypertension and
cancer are the principle sicknesses suffered by Indigenous
people in Rondônia; in this state, from January through April
of 2006, 595 cases of malaria were recorded. The Indigenous
people are going hungry because they are losing the habits of
planting and hunting due to lack of land; their lands are
encircled by large farms, and fish have grown scarce because
of pollution in the rivers, especially by the use of
pesticides in large farms. Indigenous access to basic
provisions is disrupted because the communities have stopped
drinking water sources have been contaminated, which has
caused skin problems and a high level of infection by
Violence by the Military Police
cases of violence against Indigenous people by the Military
Police were registered:
city of Boca do Acre, in the state of Amazonas, an Indigenous
man called Sebastião da Silva Oliveira, 27 years old,
was killed after being taken into custody and abused by the
Military Police. Without any reason, police commander
Hidelberto de Barros Santos ordered six of his officers to
hold a “hunt” through the streets. They executed Sebastião
in cold blood by the Purus River.
His body was only found five days later, and the cause
of his death, according to the local hospital, could not be
legally determined, although it was “possibly suffocation.”
No legal action was taken to assign responsibility for
the death of Sebastião da Silva Oliveira.
Fifteen Tupinikim and Guarani, from the
Indigenous territory Caieiras Velhas in the state of Espírito
Santo, testified that the Military Police and the armed
security forces of Aracruz Celulose corporation, invaded their
lands. The Indigenous people were arrested and humiliated at
the police station in the town of Aracruz.
In the state of Bahia, fifteen Indigenous
Tupinambá people from the Valley of Jequitinhonha, among them
two adolescents, were attacked and arrested by the Military
Police. They were beaten by 10 police officers who abused and
humiliated them with threats and curses.
In the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, in the city
of Dourados, the Indigenous youth Cléber Meireles Quirino,
and Francismar Pontes Echeverria, 19 years old, were struck by
shots when they crossed a checkpoint that the police had set
up in the city. They
were hit by shots in their legs and buttocks.
persistence of these violent attitudes by the Military Police
is a cause of great concern. Another serious problem is the
covering up of these acts and the impunity of the police
authorities responsible for them.
all of the facts discussed above, we can perceive the presence
of racism against Indigenous people that persists in Brazilian
society. This racism is expressed in public departments,
including the Military Police, in the legislative branch of
the government, in the Judiciary, in private companies.
federal government, which ought to take the lead in breaking
this pattern of racism, ends up reinforcing it when it does
not fulfill its responsibilities. The government of Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva has been negligent in the following areas:
government has not carried out the identification, demarcation
and regularization of Indigenous territories in neither
sufficient nor necessary quantity or with a minimal speed that
might repay the historic debt that the Brazilian State owes to
Lula administration did not budget the resources necessary to
implement effective policies on behalf of Indigenous people,
whether in respect to the protection of their territory, or in
relation to specific areas such as Indigenous health,
education, preservation of the environment, etc.
administration has not sought to restructure the federal
bureau responsible for indigenous policy, FUNAI, in order to
better fulfill its obligations from the perspective of
providing service to indigenous people and communities. It has
not designated the governmental agencies that ought to render
additional services to Indigenous peoples, as in the case of
FUNASA and others.
government also failed to follow through in establishing the
National Commission of Indigenous Policy, an instance of
community consultation created by a presidential decree in
March of 2006. This initiative was well received by Indigenous
people and organizations as a fundamental step toward the
integration and implementation of a new Indigenous policy,
with democratic participation. After communities throughout
the country designated their representatives, the Federal
Government simply halted its creation, without any
Lula government (2003-2006) and its relation to Indigenous
election of president Lula was received with very positive
expectations on the part of Indigenous people and
organizations. These expectations, however, have gradually
dissolved, replaced by great frustration, if not outright
indignation and feelings of betrayal and abandonment, over the
past four years.
to its political allegiances, among which are historical
enemies of Indigenous people, the Lula government distanced
itself systematically from its prior alliance with the
struggles of Indigenous peoples. In response to this neglect,
in 2004, the “Indigenous April” arose with the Free Land
Encampment, with the objective of achieving greater visibility
for Indigenous people, for their demands and concrete
proposals, as it sought to open a dialogue with the three
branches of the government, in search of paths to achieve
these demands and proposals.
Lula government has responded minimally when pressured by
Indigenous people, and by Indigenous rights organizations.
Soon after winning the election, the government has not
upheld its agreements with Indigenous representatives, raising
frustration and indignation among those who are dedicated to
the Indigenous cause in our country.
Maldos is an advisor for the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI).