Two Sundays ago, Leipzig’s socio-cultural center Die Villa hosted an event about the fight for survival of the Guarani-Kaiowá people living in central-western Brazil. In attendance were the indigenous leader Ládio Veron and his assistant, Jordi. They stopped in town during a three-month tour through Europe, on which they’re seeking out support and “partners in development” to combat the violence the Guarani-Kaiowá suffer on a daily basis, victims of agribusiness in their region.
Said Chief Veron:
I am here in Europe in search of an arm, of a hand, in search of brethren, in search of that big heart that is sensitized by this cause, because the food that is eaten here in Europe comes with Indian blood.
Organized by the initiative Demokratie für Brasilien, the event received support from the non-profit EineWelt Sachsen, Amnesty International’s local university group, and the City of Leipzig within the framework of the diversity-themed program Leipzig. Ort der Vielfalt.
About 50 people came to the event – a big turnout, considering that it was both a sunny day and a holiday weekend.
The event, appropriately entitled Kampf ums Überleben der indigenen Guarani Kaiowá in Brasilien, brought a glimpse of the indigenous group’s ordeal to a diverse Leipzig audience. Their Chief Ládio Veron seeks to create a current of solidarity to fight back the extermination of his people.
Veron recounted the process of expulsion of the Guarani-Kaiowá from their land starting in 1953. It has reduced them to eight indigenous “confinements,” amid the domination of agribusinesses, mining companies and developers in the region.
The Chief denounces the Brazilian organs SPI (Servico de Proteção ao Índio) and FUNAI (Fundação Nacional do Índio) which, despite ostensibly being meant to protect indigenous peoples, contributed to their extermination and massacre. The entities cooperated with the country’s military regime until 1980, when three large indigenous leaderships rose up to try to take back their land: the Guarani-Kaiowá, the Xavante and the Sateré-Mawé. Their movement resulted into the “First Indigenous Assembly” in 1983.
Their first success was taking back territory in the Bela Vista municipal area, on the border with Paraguay, into a village today called Aldeia Piraguá. Having their rights recognized for the first time in the 1988 Constitution of Brazil, still in place, is also the result of this indigenous fight strewn with impunity, injustice and death.
385 indigenous leaders have been killed by agribusiness, farmers and heads of soy and sugar cane plantations in the region. Children and the elderly are killed without any justice.
Agribusiness and the Evangelical Church have representatives in Parliament, hence impeding the demarcation of Indigenous Lands and compliance with the 1988 Constitution’s provisions ensuring the indigenous peoples rights to their lands and their culture. Chief Veron says that indigenous peoples in Brazil today have nowhere else to live, living under bridges, and being “worth less than a sugar cane plant; this is no life.”
The Chief of the Guarani-Kaiowá demands the demarcation of the indigenous lands, which belong to them.
The fight of the indigenous peoples in Brazil requires the demarcation of their lands, the end of their extermination, and the rejection of the proposed constitutional amendment PEC 215/2000 and the Proposed Law 1610/96. These have been the main weapons of the farming and mining sectors in their endeavors.
By Alexis Cabezas
Demokratie für Brasilien – Leipzig
Text translation: Ana Beatriz Ribeiro
Cover shot (picturing event): Daisy Lange