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Brazil offers to resolve land issue for Guarani Indians
by Staff Writers
Brasilia (AFP) Nov 24, 2011

Brazilian authorities said Thursday they were close to a deal to secure a demarcated territory for Kaiowa Guarani Indians in the western state of Mato Grosso do Sul following last week's killing of a community chief.

Thousands of Guaranis have been trying to recover a small portion of their ancestral lands, but face violent resistance from wealthy ranchers and soya and sugar cane plantation owners.

"We are close to reaching a deal with the government of Mato Grosso do Sul state to secure a demarcated area for them (Guaranis)," said Gilberto Carvalho, the secretary-general of the presidency. "It's a concern, a commitment."

The Indigenous Missionary Council, however, reacted with skepticism, saying the agreement dates back to 2008 but has never been put into effect.

"We doubt that the government has sufficient political will to do it, because Mato Grosso do Sul is a state dominated by agroindustrial interests," said Saulo Feitosa, deputy secretary of CIMI, an agency defending indigenous rights.

He said there was "great concern" about the safety of the Guaranis as another attack could occur at any time.

Last Friday, 42 heavily armed, hooded men attacked the Kaiowa Guarani community in the village of Amambai, near the border with Paraguay, and shot the 59-year-old chief, Nisio Gomes.

The government agency for indigenous people, FUNAI, said the assailants kidnapped a child and two youths and took away Gomes' body.

The raid was the latest in a series of violent incidents linked to land disputes in Brazil, where one percent of the population controls 46 percent of the cultivated land.

The official Agencia Brasil, meanwhile, quoted Carvalho as saying the federal government was doing its utmost to resolve the indigenous problem in Mato Grosso do Sul.

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