EI and its affiliate in Brazil, the Confederaçao Nacional dos Trabalhadores em Educaçao (CNTE), have condemned the death of Terena native Oziel Gabriel during a land conflict in the municipality of Sidrolândia on 30 May in Mato Grosso do Sul.
The Federal and Military Police opened fire against Gabriel (35) and other members of the Terena tribe who had gone back to their ancestors’ territory occupied by a cattle-raising landowner of the Hacienda Buriti, who is also a regional politician. EI asks for an investigation and the punishment of the responsible people.
The lands in Sidrolândia were declared as the property of the Terena tribe in 2010 by a federal indigenous agency. Nevertheless, the process of handing over the land was delayed by the action of landowners who possess land in the indigenous territory.
Gabriel’s death was followed by another incident on 5 June when another Terena native, Josiel Gabriel Alves, was seriously injured. Along with a group of about 100 Indians, Alves was attempting to enter the Hacienda San Gabriel, an estate close to the Hacienda Buriti when the incident occurred. Alves is out of danger, but has been left significantly paralysed.
The conflict has led the state government to ask for reinforcements. More than 110 men from the National Security Force have arrived and remain in the region.
Conflicts of this nature are not new in the region. The state of Mato Grosso do Sul, adjacent to Paraguay and Bolivia, has assassinated 279 natives between 2003 and 2011 in disputes about lands with cattle farmers and landowners.
In Latin America, the increase in the export of primary goods, such as foodstuffs (maize, soya and wheat) and biofuels or minerals has caused disruption and conflict in the territories. This is because of land hoarding and the displacement of rural or indigenous communities. Indeed, many indigenous leaders have been victimised or killed during this repression across the region (e.g. Bagua in Peru, the Qom Community in Formosa, Argentina, and the Terena people in Mato Grosso du Sul).
In the meantime, the Director of the FUNAI, the federal agency establishing the indigenous policies, has resigned her position. However, the indigenous people’s protest goes on and a constitutional amendment has been proposed that might define the role of the FUNAI in dividing up the land in indigenous territories.
According to that proposal, the Congress and other federal agencies, such as the Institute of Agricultural Investigation, would have an input into the demarcation of the indigenous territories.
Call for justice for the native peoples
The Executive Committee of the CNTE has condemned the violence by police forces against the Terena people and is calling for an explanation of the facts around Gabriel’s death, along with accountability for those responsible for his death.
Fatima da Silva, International Relations Secretary of the CNTE and vice-chairman of EI/ Latin America (EI-AL) has condemned the violence, discrimination and historical persecution against the Terena native population in a public act of solidarity in Campo Grande, capital of Mato Grosso du Sul. Da Silva expressed her support for an agrarian reform and demarcation of the indigenous lands.
Policies of the EI
Since 2009, EI’s affiliates have had a series of regional meetings in order to deepen the process of discussion on the situation of public education in the native populations.
This is the starting point for the definition of action lines in the elaboration of an alternative proposal of educational policy in view of the needs and realities of said populations, a process in which the CNTE has participated actively.
Meeting of native peoples
Regarding this subject, EI organised the third meeting on public education and native peoples in Cusco, Peru, in May 2013 with the participation of the CNTE, Brazil, among other trade-union entities from Latin America and Norway.
At this forum, the affiliated organisations of Latin America agreed to design new better trade union strategies for the defence of a multicultural and multilingual public education.
EI expresses its solidarity and is monitoring the progress and solutions to the land conflict affecting the Terena peoples in Mato Grosso do Sul.
For further information on CNTE’s condemnation of the death of the Indian Oziel Gabriel, see:
Federação dos Trabalhadores em Educação de Mato Grosso do Sul (FETEMS) member of the CNTE
Work Area – Public Education and Native peoples