Newsletter n. 232


A commission made up of representatives of entities which support the indigenous cause in Amazonas has been negotiating since the 12th a solution to the impasse created by the protest of Waimiri-Atroari Indians in front of the Taboca mining company, linked to the Paranapanema group, in the municipality of Presidente Figueiredo (state of Amazonas). Since the 8th of October, about 110 Indians have been camping in front of the mining company to demand a compensation for damages caused by the company to their people and land. Among other claims, they want to reoccupy their traditional territories, which were occupied by the mining company, and to receive a certain payment to let the company use the BR-174 highway, which cuts their territory and is used by the company to transport ores. The company pays about US$ 16 thousand to use that highway and tried to raise that amount to US$ 24,000 and later to US$ 41,000 after the Indians began their protest. The Indians, however, want to receive US$ 78,000 a month, a sum equivalent to one truckload of ores. The company, which is the largest producer of cassiterite in the world, keeps a regular flow of 200 truckloads a month.

The Waimiri-Atroari denounced damages caused to the environment by the company's mining activities, which have polluted the Alalau river that cuts the indigenous area. One of the directors of the company declared that four years from now there will be nothing left to exploit in the area, a statement that upset the Indians even more. The Waimiri also denounced that they were cheated by Funai and that the mining site of the company in Pitinga covers 526,800 hectares of their land.

The action of the Waimiri-Atroari is a reaction against repeated acts of plundering and violence. Since the 60s and the 70s, when the BR-174 highway was built, they have been dominated and subjugated by the Army. In this process, 2,000 Indians disappeared and their lands were reduced by 4/5. In the 80s, the State decided to build the absurd Balbina power plant, which accounts for 1% of the Brazilian foreign debt and flooded 250,000 hectares of forests, in their land.

Cimi and other entities which have always fought against the plundering of the Waimiri-Atroari land blame the State for any acts of violence against the Indians as they fight for their rights. "It is therefore up to the State, through Funai, to find a solution and redeem the rights of the Waimiri-Atroari over the integrity of their territory," the vice-chairman of Cimi, Francisco Loebens, declared.


The visit of Minister Nelson Jobim to the Raposa/Serra do Sol area in Roraima outraged antiindigenous groups but did not lead to the official demarcation of the area as the Indians expected, although they still hope it will be demarcated. In various meetings which he attended, Jobim said that he will be making a decision on the demarcation of the area by December and that before the Fernando Henrique Administration is over, in 1998, he will have demarcated all indigenous areas in the country, that is, 11% of the national territory or about 90 million hectares.

The minister met with the governor of the state, Neudo Campos, parliamentarians, the local judge, and representatives of indigenous populations of the state. A meeting he held with the bishop of Roraima and Cimi's president, D. Apparecido Jose Dias, and priest Lirio Girardi lasted 45 minutes. In his meeting with parliamentarians, the minister admitted that he knows the situation of Indians and non-Indians has always been tense in the state, contradicting what the parliamentarians had said before.


This Tuesday, October 15, the Chamber of Deputies passed a bill for legislative decree n. 308/96 authorizing the exploitation of the hydroelectric potential of part of the Tocantins river by the Serra da Mesa power plant in the indigenous territory of the Ava-Canoeiro Indians. The license was granted even though the Environmental Impact Report (RIMA), a compulsory requirement for the building of the plant, is not ready yet. The authorization was voted on under a regime of extreme urgency and was rejected by the Workers' Party (PT), the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), the Green Party (PV) and the Communist Party of Brazil (PC do B). The bill will now be referred to the Senate and should, a priori, be submitted to working committees. Given the priority attached to it by the Government, however, it is expected to be analyzed and voted on at this level as an urgent matter also, as in the Chamber.

The political victory of the Ava-Canoeiro came through judge Marcelo Dolzany da Costa of the Federal Court of Tocantins. In a ruling issued on October 15, the judge denied the request filed by Furnas Centrais Eletricas S.A to reconsider his previous decision, which suspended the filling of the reservoir on October 1. The decision was taken in compliance with appeals made by various persons, entities and countries, which called on the judge to sustain his ruling. Judge Dolzany insists on the need of the Environmental Impact Report and of the authorization from the National Congress before the gates can be closed.

Brasilia, 17 October 1996
Indianist Missionary Council - CIMI