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article imageTensions mount over death of Brazil indigenous leader

By AFP     Sep 2, 2015 in World

Tensions over land ownership are soaring between Brazil's indigenous Guarani people and ranchers after the shooting of a Guarani leader, activists said Wednesday.

In Antonio Joao, in Mato Grosso do Sul state, "the situation is very tense," said Cleber Buzatto, with the Indigenous Missionary Council, a Catholic Church group defending indigenous communities' rights.

On August 22, about 1,000 members of the Guarani-Kaiowa community invaded lands they say have been stolen by farmers. A week later, the council said, dozens of ranchers struck back, pushing the minority ethnic group out and shooting dead one of their leaders, Semiao Vilhalva, 24.

"It's a region with a history of violence by ranchers against the Guarani-Kaiowa and Semiao was one more victim," Buzatto said.

State authorities asked for federal troops to be sent to restore order in a 30-day operation. This Wednesday, Justice Minister Jose Cardozo and two federal deputies traveled to Mato Grosso do Sul to meet with local leaders.

Indigenous people in the region have struggled to hold on to ancestral lands. In 2005, the Supreme Court suspended an earlier government judgement declaring the area where the latest violence took place to belong to the Guarani.

There are some 890,000 indigenous people in Brazil, which has a total population of about 202 million. Their lands occupy 12 percent of the country's territory, largely in the Amazon interior.

Many of the indigenous groups are under pressure from agriculture and foresting groups pushing into areas where they live.

According to the Indigenous Missionary Council, there were 138 murders of indigenous people in 2014, a 42 percent rise over the previous year.

More about Brazil, Indigenous, Rights, Crime, Farming
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