Newsletter n. 253


At an Assembly held on March 20, the Environment and Development Forum of the State of Mato Grosso (Formad) formally decided to break away from negotiations for reviewing the Agricultural/ Environmental Development Program of the State of Mato Grosso (Prodeagro). In this project, funded by the World Bank (Interamerican Development Bank) under an agreement with the government of that state, actions to protect the Sarare indigenous area and to remove invaders from it were constantly used as an argument conditioning the allocation of funds to the Program. However, the Formad decided to break off relations with that program due to the threat of genocide of the Kithaurlu people, a subgroup of the Nambikwara, as a result of ineffective attempts to protect the indigenous area. The Forum is presently made up of 30 environmental entities and organizations which support indigenous peoples and human rights, among which Cimi and the Land Pastoral Commission (CPT), which are taking part in the assessment and reorientation of the Prodeagro program with a view to ensuring the active participation of society's institutions.

Formad's decision reinforces Cimi's constant complaints about the omission of the federal and state administrations, which have failed to protect and ensure the integrity of indigenous territories in Brazil. At the last board meeting of the entity, Cimi also accused the Ministry of Justice, Ibama and Funai of neglecting the indigenous population. In a public note, the Mato Grosso Forum complained that the Program postponed the definition of a final solution to the dramatic social and environmental situation of the Sarare indigenous area. In Formad's opinion, nothing has changed since the Prodeagro was signed five years ago. On November 15 of last year, a criminal ambush by miners and woodcutters threatened the lives of the 76 Kithaurlu who live in the 67,000-hectare area.

All attempts to curb the invasion of the area by miners, including an operation which removed over 8,000 miners from it in January of this year, have failed. So far, the authorities have failed to effectively control the situation and have not implemented programs to ensure indigenous rights provided for in the Brazilian Constitution. No actions were taken to recover the environment in the indigenous area and its constant and still persistent invasion by miners are dealt with through unsuccessful repressive inspection operations.

On November 20, the Acting Federal Judge of Mato Grosso, Alexandre Laranjeiras, described the situation, with some irritation, as one of flagrant omission on the part of the federal administration. He stressed that "it is up to the Federal Administration, through Funai and with the help from the armed forces if necessary, to act as a police force in indigenous areas, a role it has failed to perform with no grounded explanation."

For over a month, the entities making up the Formad have been trying to fix an audience with the governor of Mato Grosso, Dante de Oliveira, to talk about the aggravation of the Sarare indigenous area situation. However, the governor - despite all acts of aggression against civil servants and different entities in the performance of their functions - receives representatives of miners or their political interlocutors without reservation, evincing his lack of political will to solve the problem of indigenous populations. Moreover, it is publicly known that the government of the state of Mato Grosso may reserve part of the Sarare indigenous area for mining activities through a project that lacks any legal or environmental basis.

The entities making up the Formad have agreed that they will only resume the dialogue with the Prodeagro program if the government of the state and the World Bank - supported by the federal administration - remove the invaders of the Sarare indigenous area for good, forbid the settling of miners in its surroundings and implement a plan to recover the area degraded by mining activities immediately. The Formad asked the World Bank to suspend the funding allocated to the program and to set up an Inspection Committee to investigate whether an express contract clause providing for the requirement to protect and control the Sarare indigenous area is being disregarded.


The fact took place on Saturday, March 22, and drew the attention of the press. By order of the Sectoral Policies Department of Funai, 33 Indians, mostly Xavante, had their permission to remain lodged at two boarding houses with expenses paid by the agency suspended. This type of lodging is offered to indigenous peoples arriving in Brasilia to solve problems related to indigenous areas or for health care. Chief Aniceto Xavante, the leader of the group, believes it was an act of retaliation of Funai caused by a document signed by 84 indigenous chiefs and leaders requesting the dismissal of the president of the agency, Julio Gaiger. According to Aniceto Xavante, Gaiger is incompetent and "wants to bury the Indians alive and release Funai from the obligation to take care of the health, protection, and education of my people." The owners of the two boarding houses confirmed Funai's orders and admitted that they had expelled other Indians before.

The Council for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Brazil (Capoib) issued a note blaming Funai for the impasse, caused by the paternalistic system adopted by the agency itself. According to Capoib, this fact evinces the urgent need to define an indigenous policy with the participation of indigenous peoples, so that they may not continue "to be used as mere folklore or objects of political and economic exploitation by those who take advantage of the sad situation of some human beings."

Brasilia, 26 March 1997
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi