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Guaranís Dying in Brazil: One Woman’s Fight to Save Them

Valdelice Veron recently left Brazil for the first time to help raise awareness on issues facing the Guaranís in Mato Grosso do Sul.

Valdelice Veron recently left Brazil for the first time to participate in the International Summit of Conscience for the Climate, titled “Why do I care,” in Paris. Veron, Guaranís Kaiowa of Mato Grosso do Sul, was also attending a debate about the documentary, “La Face cachée des agrocarburants – The dark side of green” at the National Assembly. Between the two events she voiced her opinions on denouncing the scandalous expulsions of the Guaranís in Mato Grosso do Sul, and the exploitation of the land for the production of ethanol.

Nature is agonizing, and we can help non-Natives, as nature is for the whole planet: so help us find our land again,“ said Cacique Nathanael Vilharva Cáceres, her husband who was accompanying Veron. ”In 1928, the government created reservations, and brought a lot of people to the Mato Grosso: those reservations are full, it is impossible to live there.”

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Today’s dramatic situation of the Guaranís of Matto Grosso as portrayed in “The dark side of the green” is the reason for Veron’s first visit outside Brazil: a world call, to ask the immediate stop of expulsions and continuous massacres of the Guaranís.

While in Paris, Veron took a few minutes to discuss these issues with ICTMN.

Is this the first time you were invited outside of Brazil?

No, I have been invited previously to England and Norway. But according to our spiritual lifestyle, we have to go through steps, led by our shamans; so I had to wait before traveling.

What are your expectations, after this trip?

My objective is to help the Guaranís of Mato Grosso do Sul; as during the event “Why do I care,” we all participate to save the planet: the nature, the forests, the earth… And this includes the indigenous people. With such meetings, we will be more looked at, and respected.

The movie “The dark side of green,” shows the Guaranís of the Mato Grosso’s dramatic situation: exploited, tortured, expulsed, victims of an incredible racism. Is this your daily reality?

Yes, what the movie shows is our everyday life, but it is even worse now: and on this very day, I am extremely preoccupied, because the judge will decide another expulsion, to throw some of our people on the road. In Brazil, landowners order, and the government obeys. The tribunal judges, and the federal police, the military, and armed bandits execute: and we, Guaranís, die.

But today, most of the Indigenous groups have their own lawyers, or judicial entities to protect their rights: is it not the case in Brazil?

We do; but for Indigenous lawyers, doors are closed. Ultimately, only the judge decides; and the discrimination towards us is huge. I studied sociology at the university, but even so, I am not looked at as a human being.

Is such racism mainly based on economic interests, or is it historically rooted in the Brazilian mindset, and is it present everywhere in Brazil?

Discrimination, prejudices, is very present: we are not accepted.

But this attitude is also based on economy: the production of ethanol is the main issue, and worth more than the life of a Kaiowa Guaraní. It is all about profit, production: in the name of progress, they ignore our rights, and destroy us.

The lack of respect is everywhere: but Mato Grosso is the worst, and the violence at its maximum because of economic interests. Multinationals participate in that process, financing the plantations of sugarcane.

What about the presence of the Funai, is it not a protection?

The Funai building has been surrounded by landowners trying to burn it for defending Natives. They tried to kill one of their officers, and some of them had to leave Mato Grosso, because they were threatened of death.

So, what can be done?

The only solution is to denounce the situation abroad, because Brazil is so concerned with its image, of a place where everything is “all right,” which is the official government speech, and where Natives are respected: but it is not true.

Will you pursue your action in other countries?

Yes; but we need the demarcation and homologation of our lands now. Then we will come back to thank you.

What about the youth of Mato Grosso?

The ones living on the reservations have a very sad life: everything wrong gets in there, and every day someone dies, or commits suicide.

The situation outside the reservations is better: they have hope and resistance.

Are there any meetings for the Native communities of Brazil to establish a resistance?

Yes, we have a gathering of all the Native communities of Brazil once a year. And we organized another one, just for the Guaranís: from Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil. But as long as we do not get the demarcation and homologation of the territory, we cannot progress. And while we wait for this procedure, many Natives are murdered by private militias, who obey the landowner‘s (latifundistas) orders.

In the movie, a landowner addresses the issue of demarcation, and declares that if he follows the anthropologists logic, all of Brazil would be Native, as it was initially inhabited by Natives, and specific limits of the land have not been processed: consequently, the demarcation procedure is invalid in the context of Brazilian history?

It is not true! And it is ignorance; plus we only claim a very small portion of territory, holy to us, representing 2 percent of the land. And the demarcation process, established by the elders, is also based on anthropologist research, who check the signs of our existence, as the elders remember where their fathers lived, and can tell the story of our past: so we know where our land is.

A Funai commission also worked for the recognition of the land, doing research with the elders, about funeral remains, ritual objects... to prove Native land. Documents are established for the government and the supreme tribunal of Brazil by anthropologists to confirm which land is Native, so the judge can sign the agreement.