Newsletter n. 262

Conflict in Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae area almost ends up in a massacre

A conflict last Sunday, May 25, between the Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae and the population of the municipality of Pau Brasil, state of Bahia, almost became a massacre. Incited by farmers Paulo Leite, Marcus Guimaraes and Miguel Arcanjo, who is also the president of the Rural Union of Pau Brazil, about 300 people tried to enter farms which had been occupied by the Indians. They were prevented from doing so by federal police officers who remained in the area. On their way back to the city of Pau Brasil, however, they ran into the Pataxo and the conflict was inevitable. Farmer Marcus Guimaraes was arrested for contempt and bailed out shortly thereafter. The conflict in the Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae area is another chapter in the history of the tense land issue in Brazil.

The plan to attack the Indians began to take shape Sunday morning, when the farmers offered a barbecue and plenty of alcoholic beverages to low income persons of the city, including minors, in one of Paulo Leite's farms located near the Caramuru-Paraguassu village, where the Indians were staying. There, the farmers began to shout slogans against the Pataxo, inciting the population against them. Information got about that hit men were among the guests.

It is the second time that the farmers let fly at the Indians. The first time was on May 4. Federal police officer Rubem Paturi, the man who arrested Guimaraes, told the press he has no doubts that the farmers "are inciting the population to commit acts of violence against the indigenous community." Paturi promised to open an investigation to find out who is responsible for the scheme.

In a note to the public, the commission in Support of the Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae, made up of Cimi and 14 other entities of the state of Bahia, denounced the passive attitude and omission of the Military Police in Pau Brasil, as they did nothing to stop the distribution of alcoholic beverages to adolescents and the racist incitement to violence against indigenous peoples. The note also mentions that the farmers are intimidating the population to the point of preventing officials in charge of surveying the indigenous area from carrying out their duties. the survey has been suspended for lack of security.

It is to be regretted that the incidents in the Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae area have injured innocent individuals deceived by the false arguments of farmers. The situation reveals, however, that land conflicts are the most tragic consequence of the unfair land situation in Brazil, as the needs of the poor and indigenous communities remain largely unmet.

The farms in question are the same that led Pataxo Indian Galdino Jesus dos Santos to go to Brasilia during the Indian's Week. On April 20, Galdino was barbarously burned alive by middle-class young men in the federal capital. This Wednesday, the competent court will be hearing the witnesses of Galdino's murder, a crime that touched the country. Since the 1920s, the Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae have been expelled time and again from their territories by farmers bearing land deeds illegally granted by the government of the state. In this fight, 13 Indians were murdered.

Brasilia, 28 May 1997
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi