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Reparations for Indigenous Victims of Napalm and Atrocities in Brazil

Reparations for indigenous Brazilians and clean-up of poisoned territories will be on the agenda in an upcoming meeting with President Dilma Rousseff.
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Reparations for indigenous Brazilians and clean-up of poisoned territories will be on the agenda in an upcoming meeting with President Dilma Rousseff over recently released data showing atrocities committed by Brazilian dictators over decades.

According to the report by the National Truth Commission (NTC) Brazilian armed forces during the military dictatorships dropped napalm on indigenous communities as well as killed, imprisoned and tortured indigenous citizens along with others in the period between 1964 to 1985 according to updates to the NTC report released this Fall.

The NTC announced it will be seeking approval from President Rousseff for reparations and environmental repair to damaged indigenous territories.

Activists are pointing out that this recent report shows that the total number of indigenous killed is 20 times higher than the first estimates made by militant leftists who were targeted by the military. The new figures estimate 8,000 indigenous people killed and 1,000 others who belonged to political organizations.

The reports also noted that the U.S. sold the napalm to the Brazilian military and provided CIA training for some of its military police implicated in the atrocities.

"From the north to the south and from the east to the west, accusations of genocide, assassination of leaders and indigenous rights defenders, slavery, massacres, poisonings in small towns, forced displacement, secret prisons for indigenous people, the bombing of towns, torture, and denigrating treatment were registered," said Marcelo Zelic, vice president of the anti-torture group Never Again - SP, one of the organizations that makes up the Indigenous Truth and Justice Commission, created in order to provide documents and information to the NTC.

Zelic and other activists presented findings from the report in a press conference in Sao Paulo in October and they described various actions taken by the dictatorships to remove indigenous people from their lands.

Some communities such as the Waimiri Atroari were bombed with napalm. Reporter Memelia Moreira covered the story at the time and recalled how napalm was used during the same period when the nation was constructing the BR-174 highway, from 1967 to 1977.

"I saw it, I picked it up and I took a capsule of napalm with me," said Moreira who also spoke at the 4th International War Crimes Tribunal in 1980 in Holland, where Brazil was declared guilty of human rights violations. "They were bombed at least two times in 1975 and 1976. Many times the indigenous people, who did not speak Portuguese well, wanting to refer to death, would point in the direction of the sky."

Another witness to the destruction caused by the napalm bombing campaigns was Egydio Schwade who is the coordinator of the Amazon Truth Commission (ATC) which also compiled a report, and during the construction of BR-174 he was executive secretary of the Indigenous Missionary Council. Schwade stated that at least 2,000 Waimiri Atroari people died during the construction period.

"Fathers, mothers, and children died, towns were destroyed by fire and by the bombs. People resisted and ran into the forest in search of refuge in the neighboring towns. This was the political and lived geography experienced by these people since the beginning of the construction of BR-174," according to the ATC report.

In a separate press event NTC members presented more information on the violence committed against Indigenous Peoples.

“They were obliged to work as slaves,” said Maria Rita Kehl, a psychologist and NTC member. “They were imprisoned in irregular and improvised settings and they were victims of more systematic violence when, for example, the policies of the state for the occupation and development of the Amazon region they were devastating the indigenous lands. The most lethal form of extermination was the option to not vaccinate the officials responsible for interacting with the indigenous, bringing to them a series of illnesses that devastated entire populations. This was done not out of ignorance, it was by omission.”

At the same press event, Kehl and other NTC members announced that, at their upcoming meeting with President Rousseff on December 10, they were going to recommend reparations for indigenous communities and clean-up of the territories poisoned by napalm and other toxic substances.