The Embrace of Death: Land of isolated indigenous group is surrounded by devastation in the state of Mato Grosso and OPI calls for action

Mapa elaborado pelo Opi com dados de desmatamento do Inpe no entorno da TI Kawahiva do Rio Pardo mostra a área cercada por invasores. Fonte: Opi/2023
Map produced by Opi using Inpe deforestation data around the Kawahiva do Rio Pardo Indigenous Land shows the area surrounded by invaders. Source: Opi/2023

Published by Opi


OPI has sent data on invasions and deforestation to the Federal Prosecution Office (MPF) recommending a series of measures

The Kawahiva do Rio Pardo Indigenous Land (TI), a territory of isolated indigenous groups in Mato Grosso state, is surrounded by invaders who are rapidly destroying the surrounding forest and threatening the survival of these people. The embrace of death around the indigenous area has come with the significant increase of invasions and illegal activities in two neighbouring extractive reserves, the Resex Guariba-Roosevelt (MT) and the Resex do Guariba (AM). According to data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), between 2019 and 2022 deforestation in these two areas totaled 55.55 km2. 

The PRODES/INPE system detected 44.50 km² of deforestation in the Resex Guariba-Roosevelt, in Mato Grosso, during the 2019-2022 period (Bolsonaro government), an increase of more than 180% when compared to the 2015-2018 period (Dilma and Temer governments). In the Guariba Resex, in Amazonas state, deforestation totalled 11.05 km², which is an increase of more than a hundred times - almost 10,000% - compared to the period 2015-2022,when 0.11 km² was deforested. The Observatory for the Human Rights of Isolated and Recently-Contacted Peoples (OPI) gathered this data and sent it to the Federal Prosecution Office (MPF) calling for a series of urgent measures to be taken. 

Although they are, for the time being, outside the Indigenous Land, the invaders are getting closer and closer to the limits of the territory, representing a growing risk to the survival of the indigenous people, in a kind of "embrace of death". As they are a group in isolation, the Indians have no defence against diseases common to the general population, and an outbreak of flu or malaria could decimate the entire group. In addition, there is a constant risk of massacres with the presence of invaders inside the territory. Whether through violence or disease, the threat of genocide is imminent.

In the document sent to the Associate Federal Prosecutor General, Eliana Torelly, coordinator of the 6th Court of Coordination and Revision of the MPF, OPI recommends a series of measures, such as the removal of invaders and the destruction of equipment and structures used for devastation, the mapping out of all illegal occupants of the Resex Guariba-Roosevelt, an inspection operation with the participation of IBAMA, the Federal Police, FUNAI, the State Prosecution Office of Mato Grosso, and the MPF, as well as the installation of a permanent base of Mato Grosso's Environment Secretariat in the Guariba-Roosevelt area, for constant surveillance against invasions. 

OPI also understands that it is necessary to create a buffer zone around the Indigenous Land, inside the Resex, an area in which/where deforestation will be totally banned. In addition, the unauthorised road built by loggers, connecting the reserves of Guariba, in Amazonas and Guariba-Roosevelt, in Mato Grosso, should be deactivated as soon as possible, as it is serving as a route for devastation. 

The Madeirinha-Juruena Ethno-Environmental Protection Front, responsible for monitoring and protecting the Kawahiva do Rio Pardo Indigenous Land, has already sent several letters to the federal authorities and to the Environment Secretariats of Amazonas and Mato Grosso, which are responsible for environmental inspections in state protected areas, without success. The omission of Mato Grosso's state government has also been highlighted by the MPF itself, since in June 2022 it sent a recommendation requesting the removal of the invaders and the creation of a permanent inspection base on the site. So far, the recommendation has not been complied with. 

The lack of inspection, especially in the Resex in Mato Grosso, causes serious conflicts between land-grabbers and traditional communities that are the legitimate occupants of the territory. In 2022, the invaders even set fire to a rubber tapper community's storehouse. The arson - an empty fuel canister and wick that started the fire were found in the scene - occurred on the same day as a public hearing promoted by Mato Grosso's Federal Prosecution Office (MPMT) to discuss the invasions and conflicts was supposed to take place. The hearing was cancelled. In a lawsuit filed by the MPMT there is already a court ruling that determines that the state government must conduct a land survey and cancel all processes of regularisation and legitimisation of illegal possession in areas within the Guariba-Roosevelt RESEX. OPI believes this measure must be taken urgently.

*TI – Indigenous Land


See OPI's technical note on the situation of the Kawahiva do Rio Pardo Indigenous Land.

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