Newsletter n. 245


The Parakana Indians who live in the Apyterewa indigenous area in the south region of Para state are being enticed by woodcutters into facilitating the smuggling of mahogany in the region. The situation was denounced by the O Globo newspaper based on what its reporters heard from dwellers of the municipality of Sao Felix do Xingu and is taking place six months after a federal decree imposing strict restrictions on the exploitation of mahogany in Brazil was issued. In the exploitation scheme, the Indians, who are usually young, receive only food and alcoholic beverages to show the best locations where the hardwood can be found and, using firearms donated by the woodcutters, they drive away Funai officials and any other person who may try to prevent their action.

The sawmills which process the stolen mahogany are only 100 meters away from the airport of Sao Felix do Xingu. Funai moved away from an area nearby and the head of the Forest Handling Division of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), Paulo Cesar Mendes, declared that he is aware of the exploitation scheme but blamed the situation on the lack of equipment and funds faced by the agency.

Professor Carlos Fausto, from the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro, revealed in December through the Internet that for at least two months the situation has been repeatedly denounced to the Ministry of Justice, which has done nothing about it. It is estimated that at least 15% of the 980,000-hectare indigenous area was invaded by woodcutters, miners, farmers, and settlers. Carlos Fausto blames this situation on the ``planned omission'' of federal agencies - Funai and the Ministry of Justice - which are responsible for ensuring the preservation of the indigenous territory.

In spite of the lack of inspection activities in the area, the Parakana Indians, duly mobilized, have always helped federal agencies in the task of curbing invasions and preventing the exploitation of hardwood in it. The Indians, however, have almost always acted on their own initiative. In 1993, they destroyed machines and other tools of the Perachi timber company as a means to intimidate invaders. This timber company, one of the largest in the region, defied the public powers by illegaly exporting mahogany and, in this process, it devastated 5,000 hectares in the indigenous land for opening pasture areas.


Cimi's team in the municipality of Tocantinia, state of Tocantins, is being intimidated and verbally attacked by people linked to local politicians because of the position of the entity against the building of the TO-010 highway and of a bridge over the Sono river, located inside the indigenous area. More than any other party, the government of that state has a special interest in these works, which are expected to boost the regions' development project, referred to as Prodecer and which is being co-financed by the Japanese government.

The Prodecer may lead to invasions of lands and environmental damages. It contemplates the deforesting of 40,000 hectares for growing crops and the use of huge quantities of chemical products (fertilizes and pesticides) which may contaminate the rivers located inside indigenous areas. On 20 November 1996, the federal judge of the 1st Court, Marcelo Dolzany da Costa, confirmed that the works would be denounced pursuant to a decision issued by a federal court in 1993.

The interference of the State in the community led to internal disputes and to the division of the clans. Cimi's posture of defending indigenous rights has given rise to intimidating actions supported even by Xerente chiefs who are being manipulated by the economic interests of the state government.

Brasilia, 30 January 1997
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi