WWF-Brazil expresses its regret and its solidarity to the Guajajara people following the unacceptable murder of Paulo Paulino Guajajara in the Araribóia Indigenous Land (MA) on Friday 1 November.
Paulino was conducting, along with other Guajajara "guardians of the forest", a patrol to check possible invasions of their lands when he was caught in an ambush by loggers. His colleague Laércio Guajajara, also a member of the indigenous community, was injured. There is unconfirmed news that one of the invaders was also killed in the clash.
The 413,000-hectare Araribóia Indigenous Land holds one of the last large remnants of rainforest from the eastern fringe of the Legal Amazon. This rich forest is extremely coveted by illegal loggers. In addition to the Guajajara, which number more than 5,000 people distributed in many villages, the Awá-Guajá, one of the last hunter-gatherer groups in the entire Amazon, also inhabit the land. This group of indigenous peoples have not yet been contacted by Western civilization.
Invasions and illegal deforestation in Araribóia IT are not recent news. They have been increasing in intensity over the past two years. Faced with the inertia of the authorities, in 2012 the Guajajara decided to create the “forest guardians”, a group of young people who make monitoring rounds in the territory, and often seize and destroy equipment used by invaders to irregularly clear the forest.
Due to this work, threats against them have been increasing year by year, reaching extreme levels in 2019, given the promise of several Federal Government authorities to facilitate the business of loggers and review the demarcation of indigenous lands.
At the end of September, the Guajajara sent a request for help to the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) and the Government of Maranhão, as threats by loggers and land grabbers had reached alarming levels.
A growing sense of apparent permissiveness with the invasion and illegal exploitation of forest resources on indigenous lands, initiated by the Temer Government (2016, Aug, 31 to 2017 December, 31) and that has deepened under the Bolsonaro Government, has led to deforestation on several indigenous lands. The number has exploded this year with the increase of illegal deforestation in Brazilian Amazon.
According to data from the DETER monitoring system of the National Institute of Space Research (INPE), accumulated deforestation between January 1 and October 17 this year is 136 per cent higher than the average of the last 10 years and 66 per cent higher than 2018. (The comparison is always made over the same period).
Indigenous lands, which have historically served as the most efficient barriers to deforestation, are also seeing deforestation explode: by the end of August this year, 294 km2 were cleared, an increase of over 300 per cent over the same period in 2018 and 990 per cent compared to 2017. According to the CIMI, an NGO that defends indigenous people's rights, in the first nine months of 2019 over 160 cases of invasion of indigenous lands were recorded in the country -- in 2017, there were 96 cases recorded during the whole year.
WWF-Brazil commiserates with the struggle of the Guajajara people, as well as all indigenous peoples and traditional populations taking a stand for their lands, and publicly demands the Ministry of Justice to act in compliance with its legal duty to strengthen Araribóia IT protection and arrest those responsible for routine invasions of protected territory, which is state owned land.
(Please note the above statement is a translation of the original WWF-Brazil statement in Portuguese available here.)