Kaingang Leader: Illegal leasing can cause

“If the public power, the Judiciary, do nothing, there will be a bloodbath.” The warning came from Deoclides de Paula, Kaingang coordinator of the State Council of Indigenous Peoples/RS, dealing with the situation of tension and violence in the Serrinha Indigenous Land, in the Alto Uruguai region, 361 kilometers away from Porto Alegre.

Serrinha has 12 thousand hectares, 1,760 inhabitants and registered a conflict with two deaths and an imprecise number of injuries, the result of a meeting between supporters and opponents of the chief Marciano Claudino. The dead would be Bruno Batista and Lucas Caetano, both from Claudino’s opposition group.

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It happened on the 16th when about 40 Indians and whites, carrying firearms and clubs, arrived shooting at men, women and children who had been expelled from the reserve. It’s the victims’ version.

In the chief’s version, he would have been the victim of an attack – he alleges that his Hilux van was shot – and would not have been involved in the two deaths. Then, his supporters, attacked, would have gone for revenge.

The role of soy planters

The linchpin of the dispute is the lease of land to white farmers. The practice is illegal but has existed for over 70 years with the first complacency of the former Indian Protection Service (SPI) and today of the National Indian Foundation (Funai).

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Defending the partnership with soybean growers, Claudino has stated that there are no irregularities in the leases and that the proceeds from the leased land are divided equally, without personal favors.

There was no lack of warnings about the imminence of confrontation. In September, Serrinha’s Council of Elders issued “a call for help” to the authorities. In 2020, the same appeal was made to Funai and the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) without any result. “If nothing is done today, there will be indigenous blood shed tomorrow”, prophesied the village elders.

Behind the deaths, indirectly implied, would be precisely the most predatory agribusiness, that represented by farmers and farmers who would entice leaders, undermining the good coexistence in the Kaingang community. “Non-indigenous people finance indigenous people so that the land remains in the hands of other people”, accused Deoclides de Paula. “Cooperatives (of indigenous peoples) were created that serve as a front for soy planters to rule (in indigenous land)”, he pointed out.

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“Something worse could happen on Nonoai”

“We report it to the police and public bodies, but justice is very slow. Meanwhile, the people are massacred. What happens in Serrinha also happens in Nonoai, Ventarra and Ligeiro (indigenous lands in the same region)”, he said, citing the malnutrition of children and the expulsion of families that dispute the local power.

He deplores the degradation of relationships and customs that he attributes to “greed” and the “immense power” of agribusiness in indigenous lands. “It has everything to do with the government that does not say ‘no’ (to illegalities and violence)”, he denounced.

“I’m afraid of being murdered”

CIMI held an online debate on the impacts of land leases on the lives of indigenous peoples / Reproduction

Deoclides de Paula criticized the authorities for insisting on legalizing soy within the reserves with TACs (Terms of Adjustment of Conduct). In his view, Funai and the MPF do not get tired of signing TACs that end up not complied with by the chief.

He warned that something worse could happen on Nonoai. “It will be a bigger bloodbath. Both sides are armed.”

The leader Kaingang gave his testimony during a virtual debate promoted by the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) with the theme “Impacts of leases on the ways of being of indigenous peoples”. The climate of apprehension is so great that he doesn’t hide his uneasiness. “I’m 80 kilometers from my house and I’m afraid of being murdered”, he revealed.

“They wanted to kill our chief”

There are plenty of reasons for fear with Nonoai, the largest indigenous land in the state, with 20,000 hectares and 2,638 inhabitants, comprising the Kaingang population, the majority, and Guarani.

On the 11th of this month, a heavily armed group attacked the house of chief Luis Jacinto, from the community of Pinhalzinho – one of the villages in the reserve. There would be 11 sent by the chief of Nonoai, José Orestes do Nascimento.

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Jacinto was absent, but the gang riddled the walls of his house and two other residences with bullets, breaking doors and windows. They had “large caliber weapons including automatic pistols and firing around 200 shots”, indicated the chief of Pinhalzinho.

“They came with heavy weapons. They wanted to kill our chief”, reinforced a Kaingang from Pinhalzinho, asking that his identity be hidden to avoid reprisals.

The attackers also detained four village leaders. Aldori Loureiro, Isaías Fortes, Júlio Fortes and Alexander Gonçalves were allegedly kidnapped and assaulted with rifle butts and tortured by their captors. They spent three days without eating or drinking, incarcerated in the prison controlled by Nascimento located in Vila Alegre, also part of the reserve.

Chief’s son was once mayor

The roots of the feud are in the Copinai cooperative, controlled by Nascimento. The Kaingang of Pinhalzinho complain about not seeing the result of the lease of 1,200 hectares to farmers. Each leased hectare would yield three sacks of grain to the Indians. In the sum of a year, there are 3,600 bags, representing an approximate sum of R$ 600,000. “The community is waiting for the resources that don’t come”, pondered the same resident.

Pinhalzinho’s reaction, then, was to elect his own chief, which happened in July. Nascimento did not like it and would have shown his displeasure in the most emphatic way. Erpone and Marcos Nascimento, sons of the chief, were reportedly caught in the attack by a surveillance camera. Asking for action, Jacinto handed over a flash drive with images of the attack to the Federal Police.

Erpone is a former mayor of Gramado dos Loureiros, a nearby city, elected by the former PPS, now Citizenship. He, his father and a Funai employee were convicted in 2019 by the 1st. Federal Court of Carazinho (RS) and summoned to return more than R$ 4 million to the reserve. Through leases to non-indigenous people, they would have appropriated the amounts charged from the lessees.

Chief Nascimento suspects that his opponents want to take over the cooperative that is currently under his control. Jacinto denies it, saying his community has no interest in the matter.

“If there are non-indigenous people, you cannot”

Criticizing Funai, MPF/MT attorney Ricardo Ardenghi noted, in the same debate promoted by Cimi, that the foundation wrongly authorizes “mixed organizations” – made up of Indians and whites – to open farms.

“If there are non-indigenous people, you cannot”, he sentenced. He underlined that article 18 of the Indian Statute expressly prohibits not only leasing but hunting, fishing or gathering in reserves by anyone who is not indigenous.

Ardenghi points out, however, that simply ending leases does not solve anything by itself. First, it will be necessary to implement public policies that protect communities from helplessness. In fact, he asks why Funai does not use the same energy it uses when defending leases to work by opening lines of rural credit for the villages, allowing the indigenous people to sow and harvest on their own land.

Meanwhile, the MPF/RS guarantees that the policing of the Military Brigade will continue in Serrinha “indefinitely” and that it monitors the situation.

The report tried but was unable to contact chiefs Marciano Claudino and José Orestes do Nascimento. When they can be heard, their versions of the facts will be added to the story.

Source: BdF Rio Grande do Sul

Edition: Marcelo Ferreira

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