Armchair Activist #20: Tremembe land rights

The following solidarity campaign comes from Amnesty International. As is obvious from reading the details, AI has marked this campaign as urgent and ask supporters to take actions ASAP.

Armed men, reportedly security guards and off-duty military police officers, have been threatening to kill members of the Tremembe indigenous community of Sao Jose and Buriti in the north-eastern Brazilian state of Ceara. The Tremembe are attempting to stop the construction of a vast tourist resort on what they consider to be their ancestral lands. The company is continuing work on the site in defiance of a court order.

Some 200 Tremembe have been blockading an access road to the site since 10 October, to prevent trucks from delivering materials and equipment. They say that on 4 November a group of armed men, including two off-duty police officers, came to the blockade, saying they were there to matar, prender e algemar (”to kill, seize and handcuff”) them, and drive them off the land. Members of the Tremembe indigenous community have also accused police and company security guards of repeatedly blocking up their well, which they depend on for water, threatening to kill indigenous people fishing in a nearby river, and cutting down banana trees planted by the Tremembe, who are subsistence farmers. The Tremembe have lodged official complaints at their local police station, and the State Attorney of Ceara, but they allege that armed police have been driving around the Tremembe village in company cars, harassing them.

On 13 November representatives of the federal authorities traveled to the area to mediate between the Tremembe and the construction company. The Federal Police confiscated weapons from company security guards and construction materials from the site, and told the local police to investigate allegations of threats and intimidation against the Tremembe community.

The Tremembe are beginning the long and complex process of having their ancestral lands recognized as indigenous land, which would give them some protection from exploitation. The process is managed by the government agency responsible for indigenous affairs, FUNAI.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
In November 2004, in response to a petition from the Tremembe indigenous community in the state of Ceara, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office lodged an injunction against the company’s license to build a tourist resort, and this was upheld by the Regional Federal Court, prohibiting all construction work until an evaluation of the Tremembe’s claims to their ancestral lands had been completed. Despite this the Tremembe allege that the company, backed by local police, has continued to prepare the land for construction, fencing off areas they intend to build on, burning vegetation and uprooting trees.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly
as possible:

  • urging the authorities to order an independent and impartial investigation into the threats made by state police officers and security guards against members of the Tremembe indigenous community, and take all necessary measures to prevent further intimidation;
  • urging the authorities to proceed, without any further delay, with the surveying of the area with a view to demarcating and ratifying the Tremembe indigenous territoryin order to safeguard their security;
  • calling on them to do everything necessary to enforce the ruling by Regional Federal Court suspending the company’s license to build on the land, in order to stop further degradation of the area.

APPEALS TO:
Minister of Justice:
Exmo. Ministro da Justica da Republica Federativa do Brasil
Dr. Marcio Thomaz Bastos, Ministerio da Justica
Esplanada dos Ministerios, Bloco T
70712-902 – Brasilia – DF, BRAZIL
Fax: 011 55 61 3322 6817
Salutation: Vossa Excelencia/Your Excellency

Governor of Ceara:
Exmo. Governador eleito do Estado de Ceara
Sr. Cid Gomes
Av. Dr Jose Martions Rodrigues, 150 – Edson Queiroz
60811.520 – Fortaleza – CE, BRAZIL
Fax: 01155 85 3101 1702
Salutation: Vossa Excelencia/ Your Excellency

COPIES TO:
Federal Human Rights Secretary:
Exmo. Ministro da Secretaria Especial de Direitos Humanos
Sr. Paulo Vannuchi
Esplanada dos Ministerios, Bloco T,
70064-900 – Brasilia – DF, BRAZIL
Fax: 01155 61 3226 7980
Salutation: Vossa Excelencia/ Your Excellency

President of Government Agency for Indigenous People:
Exmo. Presidente da FUNAI
Mercio Pereira Gomes
SEPS Quadra 902/702 – Bloco. A
Ed. Lex – 3 Andar, 70340-904 – Brasilia – DF, Brasil
Fax: 011 55 61 3226 8782
Salutation: Exmo. Sr Presidente / Dear President

Catholic mission supporting indigenous groups in the region, including the Tremembe:
Maria Amelia Leite
Associacao Missao Tremembe [local NGO]
Rua Jose Candido No. 53
Monte Castelo
CEP 60325.490
Fortaleza – Fortaleza – CE, Brazil

COPIES TO:
Ambassador Roberto P. Abdenur
Brazilian Embassy
3006 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 238 2827
Email: ambassador@brasilemb.org

Please send appeals immediately. Check with the AIUSA Urgent
Action office if sending appeals after 19 January 2007.

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One Response to Armchair Activist #20: Tremembe land rights

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    There’s crap like this going on all over the world. I’m all for private property rights. But what is seen so often in things like this is people inventing property rights they don’t have and using bribery and other corruption to back them up and dispossess the rightful owners.