Amazon Indians Evicted from Roraima
by Daniel J. Shepard

May 1995

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BRAZIL - Amazon Indians are being forcibly evicted from their lands in the Brazilian state of Roraima in order to clear the way for a hydroelectric dam, according to groups supporting indigenous people.

The Pro-Indian Commission of Sao Paulo and the Indigenous Council of Roraima issued a statement saying that on January 7, 50 Roraima Military Police officers, accompanied by seven Brazilian soldiers, expelled 400 Macuxi Indians, including women, children, and elders, from their community of Carapuru II and destroyed their livestock. A second invasion occurred on January 14, and there are reports that 12 Indians were beaten, two seriously.

The state government of Roraima has pushed plans to go ahead with a Cotingo River Hydroelectric Dam at a site that is considered well within lands that have been set aside for the Indians, despite the fact that they have not received the necessary authorization from the Brazilian government to proceed.

Under Brazilian law, it is also necessary to consult with indigenous peoples before proceeding with projects on their lands. The national electric power company has advised against building the project.

The Macuxi occupied the dam work site in order to halt construction, fearing that the dam would flood their fields, kill fish, and clear the way for major agribusinesses to take over their lands.

Glen Switkes, of International Rivers Network, a non-governmental organization, said meetings have been held between the Brazilian Attorney General and indigenous leaders, and the Attorney General said he would start legal action to remove the police from the area.

Switkes, who called Roraima an "outlaw state" consisting of a high concentration of gold miners, said it was unclear whether Roraima had sufficient financing in place to build the dam, and said this "may all be posturing." He said, "The state government wants to de facto overturn Brazil's Indian policy. They feel the Indians are in the way and they want to force the issue."

This story was provided by the EnviroNews Service, a project of Envirolink

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