Brazil: Without demarcation for 18 years, Guarani-Kaiowá take back land in Antônio João

Featured Image: Guarani-Kaiowá occupy large estates. Source: Dourados Informa

We publish an unofficial translation of the article of A Nova Democracia on the Guarani-Kaiowá lands in Mato Grosso do Sul, found on their webpage.

Between September 24th and 27th, Guarani-Kaiowá indigenous people took back parts of their territory in Antônio João, a municipality on the border between Mato Grosso do Sul and Paraguay. The areas of the two occupied farms are claimed by them as part of the Nhanderu Marangatu indigenous land (IT). This traditional land ( tekoha ) was approved by the opportunist Luiz Inácio in 2005, but the decision was reversed by the reactionary Nelson Jobim, then president of the Federal Supreme Court (STF, due to its acronyms in Portuguese) and future Minister of Defense under Luiz Inácio himself (2007-11) and by Dilma Roussef (2011).

Former mayor sues indigenous people

After seeing the massive indigenous mobilization, the region’s big landlords soon took legal action to try to protect their latifundium. On the Barra farm, which is next to the occupied ones, the landlord couple, Pio Queiroz Silva and Roseli Maria Ruiz, even without being the target of mobilization, soon got angry and filed a request for possessory action through their lawyer and daughter Luana Ruiz Silva. In the action, they denounced the indigenous people for embezzlement, disturbance and threat.

The decision of the federal judge of Ponta Porã denied the big landlords’ request, but with the exception of not meeting the indigenous demands: he concluded that the solution depends on a “definitive decision by the Supreme Court regarding the thesis established on the temporal frame”. The problem is that what has prevailed in the debate on this thesis is the “middle-term”, with compensation for big landlords in the case of demarcated lands – whether in the speech of the minister of the Indigenous People Ministry, Sonia Guajajara, or in the judiciary, headed by Cristiano Zanin and Alexandre de Moraes. For indigenous people, the “middle-term” policy threatens to paralyze the entire land demarcation process.

Luana Ruiz, lawyer who defends the family of big landlords, alongside Augusto Heleno and Bolsonaro’s Secretary of Land Affairs, Nabhan Garcia, in 2022. source: Social networks/GGN

Queiroz/Ruiz Silva family occupies 40% of IT

The Queiroz/Ruiz Silva family occupies a large part of the Nhanderu Marangatu area. According to local news portal Campo Grande News, the land is divided in five farms dedicated to cattle raising, three of which belong to the children of Pio and Roseli. Since at least 2015, Roseli has been the president of Antônio João’s rural union, while Luana was deputy secretary of Land Affairs in Jair Bolsonaro’s genocidal military government. Even after calling for coup acts in 2022, the following year, Luana became head of the cabinet of the Secretariat of Infrastructure and Logistics of Mato Grosso do Sul of the reactionary government of Eduardo Riedel (PSDB). She has already openly advocated for farmers to react to the takes back of the land with weapons.

Pio’s brother, Dácio Queiroz Silva, was mayor of the border municipality between 1997 and 2004 for the MDB and, even though he was arrested for buying votes, he was a candidate for the PSDB in 2016. According to the dossier “Os Invasores” on the website De Olho nos Ruralists, Fronteira farm has 1,422 hectares of overlapping IT. Valued in R$21.5 million, the property was the most valuable among those whose owners were candidates for mayor in Mato Grosso do Sul in 2016. Together with the Barra (1,326.77) and Cedro (1,124.68) farms, the family de Dácio occupies 40.5% of the 9,317 hectares claimed by the indigenous people, according to the mentioned portal. The number could be even higher, as other sources indicate that the Primavera farm also belongs to Dácio. According to the agency A Pública, 72.5% of the Nhanderu Marangatu tekoha is occupied by farms.

Land has been the scene of murders since the 1980s

According to an anthropological report from 2009, the Guarani-Kaiowá in the region were expelled from their lands in the late 1940s and early 1950s by farmers, including the family patriarch, Pio Silva. In 1969, the indigenous people received an amount of 7.5 hectares, which were regularized in the 1990s, becoming Aldeia Campestre, years after the death there of the historic leader Marçal de Souza, in 1983. Confined in the smallest indigenous area in Brazil, In 1998, with less than 1% of their tekoha land in hand, the inhabitants of Campestre took back the Fronteira farm.

It is noteworthy that the two farms occupied in September were scenes of murders. In view of the 2005 approval, the indigenous people advanced with the take backs and that year Dorvalino Rocha was killed by goons from the private security company Gaspem of the latifundium, on the Morro Alto farm. In 2015, the Guarani-Kaiowá occupied the Primavera, Fronteira, Cedro, Bananal and Barra farms, because, after “waiting patiently for ten years for Justice to resolve the issue”, they “decided to act so as not to wait for their whole lives”, in the words of an indigenous woman interviewed by the press monopoly El País . In the confrontation, Dorvalino’s brother-in-law, Semião Vilhalva, was murdered in Fronteira while looking for his 5-year-old son.

In front of this scenario, the indigenous people know that they cannot trust the old latifundium-bureaucratic State. Emulating the spirit of Luiz Inácio who believes that “there is no longer any need to invade land”, the president of the Agriculture and Livestock Federation of Mato Grosso do Sul, Marcelo Bertoni, said: “This is not the time to take invasions as a way of putting pressure on for something that has no decision at all. […] You’ve already waited for so long, waiting a little longer would perhaps be more prudent at this moment.”

On the contrary, indigenous woman Inayê Gomes, in a statement to the Indigenous Missionary Council in 2012, expressed her tiredness of politicians’ promises: “Dácio Queiroz […] promised us that if he is elected with our votes, he will leave the farm to us. Firstly, the land is traditional Guarani and Kaiowá. He cannot give something that belongs to the people. Secondly, I don’t believe in these promises, especially coming from those who oppress us.” The situation did not change and in 2023 the same leadership stated: “the indigenous people of the region were tired of waiting for the territory to be judged and chose to start a new camp”.

Guarani-Kaiowá circulated an image of support for Nhanderu Marangatu on social media. source: Aty Guasu

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