A monstrous crime was committed against members of the indigenous Gamela tribe in Maranhao state, Brazil last Sunday evening. Most media reports blandly describe the incident as a land dispute between Brazilian farmers & Gamela Indians. The misrepresentation is so appalling & so dishonest as to approach criminal.
The so-called farmers got themselves boozed up & formed a vigilante squad to attack unarmed Gamela Indians with rifles & machetes. Thirteen Gamela were injured & hospitalized; some were shot, some had their hands, arms, legs dismembered with machetes. This was a massacre, not a two-bit altercation.
According to several eyewitnesses, Brazilian law enforcement stood by & made no attempt to intervene. That’s because Maranhao state in northern Brazil is a frontline of neoliberal scorched earth economic policies. It has an entire agribusiness complex of ethanol & biofuel plantations, deforestation & saw mills, open pit mining, thermo power stations. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of land have been expropriated from indigenous tribes forcing them to move to urban slums or live in tiny enclaves.
According to the Brazilian bishops’ Pastoral Land Commission, there are currently 360 areas of conflict in Maranhao state between the expropriators & Indian tribes. In 2016 alone, the commission reported 196 incidents of violence against Indians; 13 people were killed & 72 others were threatened with death.
The issue at dispute is the refusal of the Brazilian government to demarcate Indian territorial lands against neoliberal encroachment. This was as acute a dispute under the Dilma Rousseff regime as it is under the Michel Temer regime. Last week, over 2,000 members of Indian tribes gathered in Brasilia, as they have several times before, to demand the government act on demarcation & stop the confrontations with agribusiness & logging companies.
To coincide with that national protest, Gamela Indians, including women & children, decided to stage an occupation on lands stolen from them. They protested for several hours but sensing danger left in the early evening. On their way off the ranch they were met by the drunken, heavily armed goon squad & attacked. Those so-called farmers were more likely plantation supervisors & security guards.
The Reuters caption to this photo read: “Preta (L) & Gabao from Brazil’s indigenous Gamela tribe react after members of their tribe were injured in a dispute over land in northern Brazil, in Viana, Maranhao state, Brazil.” How contemptibly indifferent can you get to unarmed people being attacked & dismembered by machetes!?
Our fullest solidarity with the Gamela tribe who are on the frontline against scorched earth devastation in Brazil like millions of indigenous people on every continent.
(Photo by Lunae Parracho/Reuters)