Brazil: serious accusations against the government following a brutal attack on the indigenous Gamela people in Amazonia – Measures of protection for aborigines had been cut back

Attackers must now be held accountable (Press Release)

The Gamela are struggling to regain access to their ancestral land, which had been taken away from them. Photo: Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons

Following a brutal attack against a group of indigenous Gamela people in the Amazon region, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) raises serious accusations against the Brazilian government. “Many of the measures that were supposed to protect the indigenous population had been cut back during recent years – in favor of the farmers and agricultural companies. Thus, the funds of the Indian agency FUNAI were drastically reduced. Many of their observation posts against illegal gold diggers and loggers had to be closed down, and it is expected that a law on the reform of the recognition of reserves (PEC 215) will be adopted. This will also limit the scope of action for FUNAI when trying to have indigenous territories recognized as such, “criticized Yvonne Bangert, the STP’s expert on questions concerning indigenous peoples, in Göttingen on Thursday. “The new laws and regulations serve provide access to indigenous land, making it more difficult or even impossible to protect such territories. Without land, however, the indigenous communities will not be able to survive. Their resistance is growing, and we are afraid that they will also experience more violence.”

In order to prevent a further escalation, the human rights organization demanded that those who are responsible for the attacks against the Gamela must be held accountable. Last weekend, farmers had attacked at least 13 indigenous people in Viana in the state of Maranhão with firearms and machetes, and some of them had been seriously injured. At least one of the indigenous people lost both his hands, which had been hacked off with a machete. The STP recalled that Brazil, due to its constitution and having signed the United Nations Convention ILO 169, is obliged to protect the about 800,000 indigenous people in the country, as well as their territories. The aborigines make up about 0.5 percent of the total population.

The Gamela are struggling to regain access to their ancestral land, which had been taken away from them during the military dictatorship (1964-1985) to be distributed among local landowners. However, the approximately 400 Gamela families never left the region – and they have been running a campaign since 2014, demanding land titles. Maranhão is one of the poorest and most violent regions in Brazil. Deforestation has advanced significantly. The indigenous people are trying to protect their ancestral land, and there are more and more clashes between the indigenous communities and the loggers, stockbreeders, and farmers.

Header Photo: Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons