World Rainforest Movement

Aracruz: Tupinikim and Guarani demands close to a decision.

The Executive Commission of the Tupinikim and Guarani had met in the village of Comboios on 13 September to evaluate the visit of representatives of FUNAI’s Regional Administration (ADR) and FUNAI’s officials on September 9 and 10. The visitors allegated that ADR was not well-informed about the land matter and also that they had some useful information to support the indigenous struggle.

Nevertheless, the leaders of the Executive Commission did not believe so. “FUNAI came here, without telling us in advance. They said that the struggle had already been going on for a long time and that it could go on for another 10 years. And if we would win this matter, Aracruz Celulose would go to court. They asked us if it would be better to have land or to get aid for the communities” states Alair, Chief of Comboios. According to Antonino, Chief of Pau Brasil, the members of FUNAI warned them that Aracruz Celulose and the Municipality would stop the aid in case they did not renounce to their demands for land. The same thing happened in other villages, as Caeira Velha, Iraja and Tres Palmeiras. Even if the visitors looked like defending the indigenous rights, they really acted under pressure from Aracruz and wanted to persuade the indigenous to cease their fight. The Chiefs are convinced that the Ministry of Justice planned the visit with the clear intention of convincing them that it would be better to make a deal with Aracruz, just as it happened in 1981.

Even though the communities rejected the possibility of an agreement that will reduce their lands, FUNAI delegates said that a representative of Brasilia would visit the communities very soon.

FUNAI’s visit to the villages was in fact a kind of preparation for the next step: an invitation from Aracruz Celulose to the indigenous peoples for a meeting which took place on September 19, that was attended by 30 indigenous representatives of all the villages and one CIMI-member. Aracruz wanted the indigenous peoples to approve a study of EMBRAPA (Federal office for Agriculture) in the villages, which should start the following week. This socio-economic study should result in an economic occupation plan based on the present indigenous areas for 4 years, to be presented to the Minister of Justice. The Tupinikim and Guarani understand that this proposal was aimed at challenging the Working Group’s report by presenting an economic plan -financed by Aracruz itself- which certainly should result in a minimal extension or maintenance of the present lands in order to minimise the damage for the company. At the same time FUNAI is responsible for having encouraged Aracruz to present this proposal.

The indigenous peoples decision after the discussion in the communities was the following:

“We, Tupinikim and Guarani, do not accept that Aracruz Celulose and EMBRAPA enter in our lands to carry out an economic occupation study or plan, because we understand that this is not for our benefit. It will only help to defend the interests of the company and will be used as an argument against our claim. Besides, the study carried out by the Working Group of FUNAI concluded that it is necessary to extend our lands, and the company already has had the opportunity to present its challenges, which were refused because of lack of legal grounds. If EMBRAPA has the intention to help us, we would like them to look for us after the land problem has been resolved. We hope that Aracruz Celulose and EMBRAPA will respect our decision.”

The indigenous communities are planning a general assembly for November 3, to decide how to put pressure on the Minister so that he decides soon and in favour of their claim. The Tupinikim and Guarani are willing to go to the end in this matter: they want the 13,579 hectares, not less.

On October 6, the WRM International Secretariat sent letters to FUNAI, to the Minister of Justice and to Aracruz supporting the indigenous’ demands.

Source: CIMI-Leste