Indigenous Brazil community stays on flooded land in dispute with developer

0
395
A drone view shows the Pindo Poty community of the Mbya Guarani ethnic group, isolated due to flooding in the extreme south of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Diego Vara

By Debora Ely Reuters

Stranded for nearly three weeks by record flooding in southern Brazil, one tiny Indigenous community is determined not to evacuate what they consider sacred ancestral lands that are in dispute with real estate developers.

The Mbya Guarani people have been living since 2018 on a peninsula in far southern Porto Alegre, the state capital of Rio Grande do Sul.

The community has long been at odds with Arado Empreendimentos Imobiliarios, the firm that has been planning a residential development on nearly 426 hectares (1,053 acres) in the area for over a decade, part of which is in dispute.

Heavy rains have battered Rio Grande do Sul since late April, causing historic floods that have killed over 160 people, while nearly 100 residents are still missing and more than 500,000 have been displaced.

Even with the devastating floods, community leaders say they would not consider leaving.

“After this flood dries up I’m going to go further over there,” chieftan Timoteo de Oliveira Karai Mirim, 62, told Reuters, pointing to higher ground within the disputed land in an area known as Ponta do Arado.

“The businessman will say that we have no right, but I’ll stay. We have already chosen this place and we are not going to leave,” he added.

The Mbya Guarani’s presence is protected by federal courts, which suspended an injunction returning the land to the developer owners until Brazil’s Supreme Court makes a broader ruling on the demarcation of Indigenous lands, said lawyers for Arado Empreendimentos.

The developer is prepared to take legal action if the community tries to expand by moving to higher ground on the property.

“We have no information that they would move from their current location, but if they do we will have to take legal measures,” land owner Iboty Brochmann Ioschpe, affiliated with the company, told Reuters.

Kreta Kaingang, coordinator of national Indigenous organization APIB, said the Mbya Guarani fear that if they move to a shelter they will never be allowed to return.

So they continue to camp in the area, even as the rising Guaiba River swallowed a 10-meter strip of sand and destroyed five bamboo houses, soaking mattresses, clothes and food. The muddy waters also flooded the road that provides land access to the village.

Seventeen people from four families live in the community, with their ducks, chickens and dogs. With a broken boat and no accessible roads, they are depending on donations to survive.

Some say they couldn’t leave even if they wanted to.

“There is no road to get around and go to the city, and you can’t go by water either,” said Pablo Natalicio de Souza, 37, nephew of the Mbya Guarani’s chieftan. “There’s no way to get out of here.”

The Mbya Guarani are the only Indigenous community still isolated by the floods, according to APIB.

The disaster has affected 30,000 Indigenous people in Rio Grande do Sul, according to an estimate from Brazil’s Ministry of Indigenous Peoples.

Last year, Brazil’s National Indigenous People Foundation began studies in the area, the first step to determine demarcation of Indigenous territories.

[do_widget_area inner_adsbar]

Leave a reply