Reuters: Brazil land disputes spread as Indians take on wildcat miners

 

JACAREACANGA, Brazil Mon Feb 17, 2014 5:17am EST

Reuters) – As Brazil struggles to solve land disputes between Indians and farmers on the expanding frontier of its agricultural heartland, more tensions over forest and mineral resources are brewing in the remote Amazon.

Anthropologists say evictions from Awá territory could be even more complicated. It is thought to be a base for criminal logging operations and is also home to some indigenous families who have never had contact with outsiders, a combination that worries human rights groups lobbying for the evictions.

Now, other tribes from the Amazon as well as the long-settled soy belt are lobbying to have non-Indians removed from their lands or have new reservations created at the same time Rousseff’s leftist government, faced with a sputtering economy in an election year, is trying to build dams, expand farmland and otherwise spur growth.

Take the Munduruku tribe in western Pará, a vast Amazon state that stretches to Brazil’s coast and is more than twice the size of France.

Their more than 2 million-hectare (4.9 million-acre) slice of protected rain forest is being encroached on by efforts to dam the Tapajós river, build new roads for exporting soy and corn crops, and especially by wildcat miners in search of gold.

The tribe’s leaders, who refer to themselves as warriors, traveled to the capital Brasilia last year to demand that the federal government remove non-indigenous miners from their territory.

Rather than wait for a court decision to start the process, which took years for the Xavante and Awá, the Munduruku decided to take matters into their own hands and expel the wildcat miners in January.

 

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