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Indigenous Brazilian community warns of massacre as police force them off ancestral land

BRAZILIAN police have been accused of a massacre of indigenous people in the country’s midwestern Mato Grosso do Sul state in a bid to force them off their land. 

Attacks took place over the weekend as military police arrived on land and by helicopter, destroying homes and shooting members of the Guarani community of Guapo’y.

The number of tribespeople killed has not been determined, but two youths are believed to be among the dead and another adult has been named as Vitor Fernandes. 

Wounded Guarani reported being subjected to physical and psychological violence by police as they were taken from hospital into police custody. 

Locals are referring to the attack as the Guapo’y massacre.

The violence took place in the same region that 17-year-old Alex Lopes Guarani was killed in May, and further violence is feared, with heavily armed police guarding the ancestral land of the Guarani people to prevent their return. 

Nevertheless, hundreds have defied the threats, returning to reoccupy their land on Tuesday. 

About 51,000 Guarani live in Brazil across in seven states, making them the country’s most numerous tribe. 

They were one of the first peoples contacted when Europeans arrived in South America some 500 years ago.  

The Guarani once occupied a homeland of forests and plains totalling some 350,000 square kilometres in Mato Grosso du Sul, but years of deforestation have seen the land turned into cattle ranches and sugarcane plantations for Brazil’s biofuels market. 

Ranchers have hired gunmen to drive the Guarani off land stolen from them by big agribusiness, who often kill with impunity. 

Survival International condemned the attacks as “an irreparable injustice and violence against the Guarani people by the state government.”

The organisation, which campaigns for the rights of tribal people, said that the Brazilian government has an obligation to demarcate Guarani land and return it to them but has failed to do so.

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