by Emilee Gaebler
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BRÁSILIA, Brazil – This past Friday, an indigenous leader of the Guarani tribe was shot to death in front of his people. Nisio Gomes was the 59 year old leader of an indigenous tribe that had recently returned to their ancestral land amid controversy.
Witnesses report that 40 gunmen assaulted the tribe early Friday morning in the southwestern region of Mato Grosso do Sul. Gomes was shot in the head, arms, chest and legs and then his body was dragged away to a location that is still undetermined. Gomes’ son was shot with rubber bullets when he tried to intervene and stop the attackers. It is reported by Al Jazeera news agency that three other Guarani tribal members were also taken in the attack.
Police believe at this time that the gunmen were hired by local ranchers; attempting to remove the presence of the Guarani. The tribe had been evicted earlier due to a dispute with the cattle ranchers regarding land ownership. The tribe had recently returned to the area, in early November, setting up camp near the town of Amambai.
“Everything indicates that ranchers, who want the land to raise cattle and plant sugarcane, hired the gunmen to get rid of Gomes, who was an outspoken defender of Indian rights,” said Renato Santana the spokesman for the Indian Missionary Council.
The identities of the gunmen have yet to be released. The state-run newspaper, Agencia Brasil, reports that identification of the shooters will be near impossible as they covered their faces.
In the Mato Grosso do Sul region, roughly 50,000 indigenous people live in extreme poverty and are constantly fighting ranchers for rights to the land. The region is coveted by the ranchers because it is prime cattle raising land. On the other side of the battle are the indigenous Guarani, who are attempting to defend it as tribal lands guaranteed to them by the Brazilian constitution.
Human rights activists have arrived to conduct investigations into what is being termed by the Brazilian government as a systematic campaign of violence towards the Guarani people. Officials report that in the past eight years over 250 Guarani people have been killed in the Mato Grosso do Sul state alone.
“The people will stay in the camp; we will all die here together. We are not going to leave our ancestral land,” was the statement of one Guarani to the Roman Catholic Indigenous Missionary Council.
For more information, please see;
Aljazeera – Brazilian Indigenous Leader Killed – 20 November 2011
BBC – Brazil Indigenous Guarani Leader Nisio Gomes Killed – 18 November 2011
CNN – Brazilian Indigenous Chief Executed, Dragged by Gunmen – 18 November 2011
The New York Times – Brazil: Chief Killed in Land Dispute – 18 November 2011