Brazil: The Federal Police invade Tupiniquim and Guarani villages on land recovered from Aracruz Celulose plantations

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The struggle of the Tupinikim and Gaurani indigenous peoples is now facing an extremely difficult situation. In February 2005, following their decision to take back their lands occupied by the eucalyptus plantations of the Aracruz Celulosa pulp company, over 100 indigenous families returned to settle in the rural areas from where they had been evicted, thus opening up the door to hopes of a sustainable and decent future (see WRM bulletins 94, 96 and 101).

However, today those hopes are being dashed. A communiqué sent by the Alert against the Green Desert Network (Red Alerta Contra el Desierto Verde) appears here below:

"Just like in the seventies, this morning (20/01/2006), in a violent and unilateral act, the Aracruz Celulose tractors destroyed two Tupinikim and Guarani indigenous villages in Espíritu Santo.”

With the support of the Tactic Operations Commando (COT) of President Lula’s Federal Government, brought in directly from the capital, Brasilia and aided by the State Police special task force from Paulo Hartung, Aracruz Celulose mowed down all they found in their way in indigenous villages of Córrego D’Ouro and Olho D’Água. The two villages were totally destroyed!

This was an authoritarian and unilateral act. Neither the Cacique Commission, nor regional FUNAL administration, nor the Public Ministry, nor the parliamentarians were aware of Aracruz Celulose’s police scheme. What puzzles everyone is that a lengthy negotiation was in process, involving all the actors in the conflict: the State, the company, the Indians, civil society. This negotiation had been on the agenda since the end of the previous year regarding a new resolution by the Ministry of Justice, confirming the anthropological studies carried out by FUNAL, recognizing the area as indigenous territory.

Demolishing all the on-going dialogue in the sphere of the State and civil society, the absurd provision of returning possession was issued by the Federal Judge, Rogério Moreira Alves, of the Jurisdiction of Linhares, dated 07/12/05.

In a war-like operation, shooting from land and from helicopters, dropping moral-effect bombs the Aracruz Celulose machines devastated their plots and food crops, and demolished their ritual cabins. The caciques and indigenous leaders who managed to reach the area and offered resistance were attacked by the police, some of the injured ended up in the Aracruz hospital (Seu João Mateus from the village of Comboios and Valdeir, from Pau Brasil, among others).

Some indigenous leaders are still being held in solitary confinement by the Federal Police (Paulo, a leader from Caieiras Velha and Nil, from Pau Brasil). The parliamentary advisor, Vanessa Vilarinho, who was present in the area that morning, lost her car that was destroyed by the police.

There are barriers preventing access to the area. Already in the morning two FUNAI officials were held and placed in solitary confinement in Aracruz Celulose’s “guest house.”

So far, this is all the information we have. The climate is very tense and a team of members of the Green Desert Network has travelled to the villages, although they have not made any contact to date. We are awaiting more information.

Olho d’água and Córrego do Ouro will arise again, always!

Those wishing to express their support to the Tupinikim and Guaraní indigenous peoples in their struggle against the eucalyptus plantations and in favour of the restoration of their lands may write to FASE-ES, e-mail: