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Brazil Begins Removal of Non-Indigenous People from Northern Territory

Depletion of the Brazilian rainforest has long been known to affect climate change, and preserving this lush area is a major issue for many environmentalists — but rarely does the spotlight shine on the relationship between the native and non-native Brazilians who call this area (the least populated in Brazil) their home.

That changed in March when Brazil’s supreme court made the controversial decision to preserve the northern reservation of Roraima for indigenous people only. The ruling was viewed by organizations and indigenous families as a victory in the struggle for native rights. UK-based Survival International quoted one Makuxi leader as saying, “Now we have the right to fish in our rivers once more without fear of being shot at by the farmers’ gunmen.”

However, non-indigenous farmers believe the ruling is unfair and a threat to their livelihood, as well as a detriment to the region’s economy. Though authorities assure that the farmers will be compensated, the farmers say they are victims of “legalized robbery.”

The BBC reported that approximately 300 police and soldiers have started operations to remove rice producers and farm workers who live and work in the region, which borders Venezuela and Guyana and is home to approximately 20,000 indigenous people. Authorities state that there was no violence after the first day of removals.

Raposa Serra do Sol (in Roraima) was designated an Indian reservation in 1993 after being identified as an “Indian homeland” by the Brazilian National Indian Foundation. Since then, it has met much controversy over national security and territorial integrity, specifically the question of whether to use the area as a reserve or for economic gain.

The governor of Roraima, Jose de Anchieta Jr., was accused of racism by the state agency for indigenous rights after he claimed that the area had been turned into a “human zoo” because the federal government did not provide sufficient resources to the indigenous people to live in the reservation. Authorities said that they would provide the needed support.

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