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Indigenous Protestors Fight Police and Ranchers in Brazil Land Dispute

Indigenous Tupinamba people blockaded a road and ended up in a firefight with Brazilian Federal Police in late January.
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Indigenous Tupinamba people blockaded a road and ended up in a firefight with Brazilian Federal Police in late January as part of a protest over the placement of a federal police station on land that had been designated as indigenous; this latest conflict has inspired calls for a ruling from Brazil’s highest court.

According to various press reports Tupinamba protestors and federal police exchanged gunfire and grenades on January 29 and 30 near Buerarema, Bahia.

One witness to the conflict, indigenous teacher Magnolia Jesus da Silva asserted that the gunfire struck local houses.

“It seemed like they were going to knock down the houses with so much shooting,” she continued. “Why does the government shoot at the indigenous? Why are they acting the same way as during the dictatorships? Why all this violence against us, we only want what’s ours.”

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The battle began after federal police had started to establish a base on territory which had been defined as belonging to the Tupinamba in a 2009 ruling by Brazil’s federal Indian agency known as FUNAI. Tupinamba leaders have since asserted their rights to control their territory and opposed the placement of the police base, and in the last year other conflicts have erupted as a result of ranchers forcing indigenous off of the contested land.

The day after the violence, on January 31, Brazil’s Attorney General Rodrigo Janot petitioned the Brazilian Supreme Federal Tribunal to suspend all judgments related to the cases of ranchers claiming possession of lands in Tupinamba territory.

Janot noted that the FUNAI ruling from 2009 had not been fully processed and implemented by the Brazilian government, which was responsible for demarcation of lands. He added that ultimately the question of final demarcation must be made by examining the Brazilian constitution.

“The demarcation, also constitutionally provided for, will be a logical consequence and necessary, with views to the concretization of this constitutional protection,” Junot stated.