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Cablegate: Indigenous Rights Abuses Increase in Mato Grosso Do Sul

VZCZCXRO3477
PP RUEHRG
DE RUEHSO #0177/01 0951010
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041010Z APR 08
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8111
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 9244
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3359
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 1670
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 3112
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0716
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 3769
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 1216
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 2664
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 2360
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 4067
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 8669
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 SAO PAULO 000177

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, WHA/USOAS, WHA/PDA AND DRL
NSC FOR TOMASULO
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
USAID FOR LAC/AA
DOL FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM EAGR SOCI SCUL BR
SUBJECT: INDIGENOUS RIGHTS ABUSES INCREASE IN MATO GROSSO DO SUL
STATE

REF: A) Sao Paulo 39 B) Sao Paulo 117 C) Sao Paulo 170

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Mato Grosso do Sul's indigenous population faces some of
the harshest conditions among the native populations of Brazil.
Government officials and landowners deny the extent of human rights
abuses occurring in the state, but activists and the indigenous
themselves recount stories of land theft, forced labor, beatings,
and murder. As the size of the state's indigenous population grows
and comes into increasing contact with the non-native Brazilian
farmers and ranchers, opportunities for mistreatment are increasing.
Mato Grosso do Sul State's indigenous conflicts demonstrate the
need for more forceful actions by the Government of Brazil. End
Summary.

Dourados and Kaiowa Guarani "Disaster"
--------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Mato Grosso do Sul (MS), whose name means "southern thick
forest," is a state of approximately 2.3 million inhabitants
situated on the borders of Bolivia and Paraguay in Brazil's
central-west region. MS is home to 60,000 native Brazilians, the
second largest indigenous population in Brazil after Amazonas State
in the country's north. During a three-day visit by Poloff to Mato
Grosso do Sul State, Catholic University of Dom Bosco Professor
Antonio Brandt, one of Brazil's most prominent historians of the
indigenous, presented an overview of the community's struggle in the
state's southern region. Indigenous residents from the Kaiowa
Guarani tribe located near the city of Dourados live in some of the
worst conditions in Brazil. Calling the situation there a
"disaster," Brandt repeated stories regularly highlighted in the
media noting severe malnutrition, particularly among children;
extreme poverty and lack of healthcare; rampant alcoholism; violent
crime; and, most infamously, a regular pattern of suicides. Brandt
blamed Brazil's decision in 1928 to create eight indigenous
reservations on a tiny portion of their traditional homelands as the
culmination of a long series of discriminatory acts against the
indigenous. Because the government believed the native Brazilians
would assimilate into the general population, the GOB did not grant
the indigenous sizeable territories in the state. When white
farmers began planting soy in large quantities in the 1950s and
1960s, and sugar mills began operating in the 1980s in the region,
the Kaiowa Guarani found themselves forced onto even smaller living
spaces.

3. (SBU) Brandt explained that the continued displacement and
removal of indigenous peoples from native lands in the 1980s and
1990s directly led to a high rate of suicide similar to that
recorded during the period of the European arrival and Jesuit
mission expansion. In one reservation of 9000, more than 160
Guarani committed suicide between 1990 and 1999, a rate that was 26
times higher than in the general Brazilian population at the time.
(Note: During the week Poloff visited the state, local media covered
a story in which an indigenous teenager unable to find work shot
himself in the face in front of his parents. Out of desperation at
seeing his only son take his own life, the child's father took the
rifle and killed himself at his wife's side. End Note.)

4. (SBU) Human rights contacts told Poloff that the Dourados area
indigenous, who have insufficient land to follow their traditional
practices including growing crops, and no access to natural food
sources from rivers and forests, are also facing the murder of
community leaders by white farmer-hired mercenaries who seek to
extend their lands. Additionally, the indigenous are forced to
reside in areas not able to accommodate their numbers (12000
indigenous live on less than 3000 hectares); lack educational,

SAO PAULO 00000177 002 OF 004


vocational or leisure opportunities for youth; have no job
availability for adults; and completely rely on government subsidies
including food baskets. These "reservations" are too small for such
populations to sustain themselves through traditional methods.
Brandt said that the government's National Foundation for the Indian
(FUNAI) has a responsibility to improve the situation, including
demarcation of the Guarani Kaiowa territories and then buying back
lands sold to farmers. (Note: Unfortunately, in some case evens,
congressionally-demarcated lands have been kept from indigenous
occupation by Supreme Court injunction, demonstrating the political
power of local landowners. End Note.)

Terena Indigenous Also Face Challenges
--------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Aivone Carvalho, a Catholic University of Dom Bosco
anthropologist and historian of indigenous culture, further
highlighted the dire situation of the indigenous in MS as a whole.
Carvalho, who is the curator of the Dom Bosco Museum, a research and
cultural institution preserving tribal heritages and receiving
support and training from the Smithsonian Institution, said that the
Brazilian Government gives limited support to the indigenous and
when it does distribute some assistance to the states or cities to
help native Brazilian communities, politicians and public officials
squander the funding for unrelated programs or outright "steal the
money".

6. (SBU) Poloff traveled with Carvalho to Bokoti (or Mbokoti,
"Cachoeirinha" in Portuguese, meaning "small waterfall"), inhabited
by about 5000 indigenous Brazilians from the Terena tribe. The
community of five indigenous villages, surrounded by productive
pasturelands typical of land that has turned the state into an
agricultural powerhouse, is a paradigm of the type of situation that
often leads to violent conflict between white farmers and indigenous
Brazilians. Along the edge of Bokoti is the large estate of former
state Governor and Senator Pedro Pedrossian. According to Carvalho,
Bokoti residents and other indigenous rights activists familiar with
the local situation, Pedrossian's farm occupies hectares of land
claimed by the Terena. The former politician's land holdings grow
each year at the expense of the Terena who do not have access to
judges and politicians approving or recognizing demarcation
boundaries. (Note: Poloff was unable to independently verify these
accusations. End Note.)

7. (SBU) When visiting the grouping of villages itself, Poloff saw
a well-organized and inviting collection of modest homes, but as
throughout Brazil, the public school was dilapidated and job
opportunities scarce. Unlike in many other indigenous communities,
however, a National Foundation for Health (FUNASA) clinic provides
services to residents with a full-time nurse and a physician who
visits 2-3 times a week. (Comment: The clinic and staff are a huge
government concession to Bokoti: many indigenous villages throughout
Brazil are lucky to have any medical support at all, let alone
regular staffing. Bokoti's relatively large population and the
Terena's history of support for the GOB stretching back to the
nineteenth century likely help explain why FUNASA has such a
presence in the community. End Comment.)

Conflicts Exist Throughout State
--------------------------------

8. (SBU) Paulo Angelo de Souza, president of the Marcal de Souza
Center for Human Rights (CDHMS), stressed that Bokoti is atypical in
its organization and government support and is not representative of
the state and national struggle for native Brazilian rights. Souza
repeated statements made by others that the Terena have historically
sought to accommodate living side-by-side with outsiders and have
been willing to negotiate even when their land was being taken from
them. Echoing previous contacts on indigenous rights, Souza said
that demarcation of their territories is the most important

SAO PAULO 00000177 003 OF 004


concession the indigenous need today. In MS, the demarcation battle
has turned particularly violent, Souza said, noting an increase in
what appear to be hired assassinations by non-native Brazilian
farmers. Activists recorded a total of 20 land dispute murders in
2006 in the state and Souza claimed that in 2007, out of a total of
76 land dispute assassinations nation-wide, 48 indigenous were
murdered in MS alone. (Note: The Catholic Church-affiliated
Indigenous Missionary Council, CIMI, one of the most respected
organizations working for indigenous rights, also uses these
figures. End Note.)

9. (SBU) Highlighting additional cases of native Brazilian
mistreatment, Souza said that drug traffickers from Paraguay take
advantage of those indigenous who live on the Brazilian side of the
border to bring in illegal substances (Note: This problem is not
unique to MS: FUNAI has highlighted Ticuna tribe members being used
as cocaine traffickers in Amazonas State near the Peruvian and
Colombian borders. End Note.) Souza added that forced labor is
sometimes an issue as well because indigenous Brazilians do not
always have an understanding of modern labor protections (Ref B). A
recent case in an ethanol and sugar mill near the municipality of
Rio Brilhante exposed the fact that 700 indigenous were working in
sub-human conditions, Souza said. (Note: Media reports highlight
that indigenous workers are used in forced labor in various states
throughout Brazil. End Note.)

10. (U) On March 18 members of a United Nations team which had
published a human rights report in March 2007 on Brazil publicly
admonished the country for ignoring the UN's requests for
information regarding violations of indigenous rights. UN Special
Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Miloon Kothari complained that the
GOB was not following up to guarantee the indigenous adequate
territory or other basic freedoms. His report also specified cases
such as when landowner-hired mercenaries raped an indigenous mother
as they simultaneously beat her husband and son. According to the
same report, local police officers also attacked some of the
family's tribesman, claiming that the community planned to invade
neighboring white-owned farms. However, the GOB alleges that it has
responded to all of Kothari's reports, detailing the indigenous
situation in general and in all specific cases mentioned in the
document.

Indigenous Rights from Another Perspective
------------------------------------------

11. (SBU) Jose Mandu, Supervisor for Intelligence of the MS State
Secretariat for Justice and Public Security (SEJUSP) dismissed human

SIPDIS
rights complaints about conflicts between the indigenous and
farmers. Responding to allegations of violence targeting native
Brazilians, Mandu claimed that this is a historical rather than a
current phenomenon. While admitting that drug trafficking is a
serious public security concern due to MS's porous borders (Ref C),
Mandu said he had no concrete evidence the indigenous were being
used as "mules" to bring in narcotics. Finally, addressing land
conflicts, Mandu claimed that according to SEJUSP statistics, only
one violent clash occurred last year, resulting in one indigenous
death. (Comment: this figure is in stark contrast to that presented
by human rights activists and indigenous contacts, possibly because
Mandu did not want to admit the gravity of the situation in light of
a visit of a U.S. Consulate officer. End Note.)

12. (SBU) First Secretary Dacio Queiroz da Silva of the Federation
of Agriculture and Livestock (FAMASUL), an organization that
represents the state's large landowners, also refuted claims that
major issues existed between farmers and the indigenous. Noting
that he was also president of FAMASUL's Technical Committee on
Indigenous and Land Issues, Silva stated that the relationship
between farmers and native Brazilians has improved significantly in
the past few years. According to Silva, landowners do not oppose
indigenous rights. Native Brazilians, however, cannot expand their

SAO PAULO 00000177 004 OF 004


land while violating farmers' property rights. He argued that in
many cases, the indigenous, seeking to acquire new territories,
claim without providing concrete evidence that their tribes
inhabited certain areas and therefore have ownership rights.

Comment
-------

13. (SBU) The indigenous rights situation in MS is much more than a
"he said, she said" dispute between people who see things in a
fundamentally different way. Both the indigenous murder rate and
the UN inquiry highlight the serious human rights abuses to which
the native Brazilian population is subjected in the state and, in
fact, throughout the country. It remains incumbent upon the
Government of Brazil to seek solutions to these problems.
Completion of land demarcations, offering training and opportunities
in understanding the community's rights and obligations, and
enhancing public security measures will help ameliorate the
situation. The one thing that remains clear is that without a more
proactive stance by the GOB, this issue will not solve itself. End
Comment.

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