by Staff Writers
Brasilia (AFP) June 5, 2013
A crack police unit was deployed in the central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul Wednesday to contain a land feud between indigenous residents and white farmers that left one person dead.
The federal government ordered the 110-strong contingent of the National Force, a special police unit, to head to Sidrolandia, where indigenous Terena are occupying a white-owned farm to demand the return of their ancestral lands.
Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo traveled to the scene Wednesday, saying: "We are here to ensure public order and avert conflict."
"We are going to start a dialogue to prevent further deaths," he added, according to a ministry statement.
Last Friday, an indigenous Terena died during a police operation ordered to expel 1,000 natives who occupied a local farm.
Another was shot and wounded, according to native chief Lindomar Terena.
The violence is linked to a spate of land disputes in the vast country where one percent of the population controls 46 percent of the cultivated land.
"Farmers have armed men and one of those gunmen shot our companion," the Terena chief said.
Luiz Eloy, a lawyer for the native protesters, said authorities rescinded the expulsion order and that he welcomed the dispatch of the National Force.
President Dilma Rousseff insisted her government would respect any decision made by the judicial authorities and that she favored negotiations "to prevent conflicts, deaths and injuries."
Her government is also faced with recurring protests by indigenous communities affected by construction of the huge Belo Monte dam in the Amazon.
Belo Monte, which is being built at a cost of $13 billion, is expected to flood an area of 500 square kilometers (200 square miles) along the Xingu River, displacing 16,000 people, according to the government.
Some NGOs have estimated that some 40,000 people would be displaced by the massive project.
The dam, expected to produce 11,000 megawatts of electricity, would be the third-biggest in the world, after China's Three Gorges facility and Brazil's Itaipu dam in the south.
Indigenous groups say the dam will harm their way of life while environmentalists warn of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and irreparable damage to the ecosystem.
Indigenous peoples represent less than one percent of Brazil's 194 million people and occupy 12 percent of the national territory, mainly in the Amazon.
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