Indigenous communities under siege in Brazilian Amazon

indigenous land rondonia

In the state of Rondônia, there is something of a siege underway against indigenous groups. Looking at a map of the region—which lies north-east of Brazil’s border with Bolivia—you will see that decades of deforestation have left the indigenous lands as the only remaining green spots.

These lands are the sources of the state’s rivers. The forests are where several ethnic groups—some of them with only a few hundred survivors—call home.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">These lands are coveted today for their timber and minerals. In other words: their &#8220;market value.&#8221; Within this besieged area not only is nature being decimated, but indigenous communities are increasingly becoming cornered.</span></p> <hr /> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-17171" src="" alt="" width="1200" height="609" srcset=" 1200w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1200px) 100vw, 1200px" /></p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The invasion of their lands using fake documents (a practice called ‘grilagem’ in Brazil) and illegal logging are the crimes fostering this division of indigenous lands. Territories inhabited by the Karipuna and Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribes are being attacked from different directions.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As if we were watching a documentary about hordes of barbarians assaulting Rome, on a recent trip to Rondônia we witnessed constant invasions and threats to indigenous communities.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Imagine a game: the board is Rondônia and the objective is to place all the pieces inside the last remaining green spots of forest. The pieces are land grabbers and loggers. Indigenous tribes and civil society try to keep them out, but the invaders have too much support from local politicians. The way things stand, defeat seems to be a matter of time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Karipuna and Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau fight on. They have resisted for decades, but now it&#8217;s different. With the new president, Jair Bolsonaro, the war against indigenous territories has already been declared.</span></p> <h6 style="text-align: center;"><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Activate English subtitles by clicking at the CC button below</span></i></h6> <p><span class="embed-youtube" style="text-align:center; display: block;"><iframe class='youtube-player' width='1200' height='675' src=';rel=1&#038;fs=1&#038;autohide=2&#038;showsearch=0&#038;showinfo=1&#038;iv_load_policy=1&#038;start=645&#038;wmode=transparent' allowfullscreen='true' style='border:0;'></iframe></span></p> <h2>Indigenous lives at risk</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A new <a href="">Amnesty International report</a> states that indigenous lives are at risk if land conflicts continue, citing the examples of the Karipuna and Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribes, but also the Arara tribe in Pará state. According to representatives of non-governmental organizations and authorities, also interviewed by Amnesty International, “intruders are often local individuals who are encouraged and supported by local farmers and politicians to occupy plots of land and/or sell the timber.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In an attempt to protect themselves and their properties, <a href="">indigenous peoples</a> in some territories are organizing their own patrols. As the intruders are often armed, there is a high risk of violent clashes. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Brazil’s indigenous peoples and their land face enormous threats and the situation will soon become untenable in the dry season,” said Richard Pearshouse, Senior Crisis &amp; Environment Advisor for Amnesty International. “The government must protect indigenous peoples who are defending their land, or blood will be shed.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As the forest tends to flood during the rainy season, deforestation and illegal logging are more likely during the dry part of the year, which runs from May/June to October/November. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Indigenous citizens have already complained about invasions getting increasingly closer to their villages. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“When I heard about the invasion, I was scared because it was very near to the village. I had never seen one so close. I was afraid they would come here. I couldn’t sleep anymore. There were gunshots during the night for several nights. I was scared. I put the children to sleep, but I couldn’t sleep,” a 22-year-old Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau woman told Amnesty International. </span></p> <h2>What is the government&#8217;s response?</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Brazil, the agency responsible for indigenous affairs, Funai, is in the middle of an administrative reorganization dispute. Back in January, the Jair Bolsonaro administration reduced the number of his cabinet ministries from 29 to 22 and reshuffled government agencies. Funai was taken from the Ministry of Justice, where it was able to work closely with the Federal Police, and it was sent to the newly-formed Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Furthermore, Funai was stripped of its power to demarcate indigenous territories, with the responsibility being handed to the Ministry of Agriculture, which tends to defend the interests of the agribusiness sector. Some lawmakers have already opposed both measures, including the House Speaker, Rodrigo Maia, and the president of the Senate, Davi Alcolumbre. The final word about the decree that reorganizes the federal government shall be given by Congress by the beginning of June.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Regarding the cases presented, Amnesty International reports that the Federal Public Prosecutor’s office has sent at least four letters to both ministries since January, warning of the risk of conflict in the Karipuna and Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau territories. To date, the Ministries of Justice and Women, Family and Human Rights have not coordinated with the National Security Force to protect the Karipuna and Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau territories, and a long-term protection plan remains unresolved.

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Gustavo Faleiros and Fábio Nascimento

InfoAmazonia provides timely news and reports of the endangered Amazon region. A network of organizations and journalists deliver updates from the nine countries of the forest

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