Guarani community set fire to in Mato Grosso do Sul

Just a few days after 130 Guarani Kaiowa indians from the community Laranjeira Ñanderu had left their traditional ladn following a judicial order, everything that was left in the place was burned down.

Last night, unidentified people set fire to the 35 houses that were left in the area. Goods and animals belonging to the indians were burner down. The families are now camping next to a federal road to protest the judicial eviction.

The Guarani say they feel unsafe to remain in the camp site because they are being threatened. The leader Zezinho say individuals fear for their security and could not sleep all night. The Public Ministry promised to watch the situation.

The Laranjeira Ñanderu community has a similar story to dozens of traditional Guarani lands in Mato Grosso do Sul. Between the 30’s and 60’s, the federal government confined the natives in small reserves and distributed the land among farmers and cattle ranchers. Since then, the Guaranis demand to go back to the land where their grandparents died.

The state’s southeast is regarded by the FUNAI (National Indian Foundation) as the most problematic region in the country. The Guaranis are suffering a series of human rights violation due to the slow bureaucratic process of land demarcation promoted by the government in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, a leading soybean producer and exporter.

There are over 40 thousand Guarani-Kayowaa in Mato Grosso do Sul currently confined to 40.000 hectares in 5 reserves. The area amounts to less than 20% of their traditional land.

The Gurarani-Kaiowá is one of the biggest indigenous communities in Brazil and has the smallest number of demarcated lands. They face high rates of alcoholism, violence and malnutrition that specialists attribute to the lack of land. Often they can lot find work in the cities because of the prejudice against them.  

There are 23 camp sites along the roads where natives live in improvised plastic tents with no running water, sanitation of space to cultivate their food in protest for the slowness of the demarcation process.

Last year, the Public Ministry ruled that the land must be given back to the natives until 2010. A judicial battle followed, paralyzing the demarcation studies, but just a week ago the justice gave the “go ahead” to the process. Nevertheless, many anthropologists involved in the studies say they are being threatened by farmers.

The disputed region is on top of one of the biggest water reserves in the world, que Aquifero Guarani. The soil is also incredibly rich: cotton, eucalyptus, sugarcane and corn plantations can bee seen everywhere.

Farmers claim that greedy international companies are behind the indigenous struggle for their land. “Seeing the richness of the soil, it’s clear that there are foreign interests behind the indigenous cause”, says Dácio Queiroz, director of the farmers’ federation in Mato Grosso do Sul.

In recent years Guarani leaders have received repeated death treats. Many leaders were killed in the last five years, and others are often run over by cars in the state roads. But the indians say they will not back down.