Three leaders of the Tembé Indigenous People were shot on Monday in the Brazilian town of Tomé-Açu, situated in the state of Pará, 200 kilometres from the state capital Belém do Pará. The incident occurred during preparations for a visit from the National Human Rights Council.
According to information from the Brazilian Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), the shots were fired by private security forces from a company belonging to the BBF (Brasil Bio Fuels) Group, dedicated to the production of oil palm.
According to the organisation Friends of the Earth Brazil, there are conflicts between the Indigenous Peoples and BBF in this area. BBF is Latin America’s largest oil palm company, and its operations in Pará mean a “frequent presence of armed security forces inside the indigenous territory”.
Peasant leader Jesus Gonçalves, from the Landless Rural Workers Movement of Brazil (MST), told Real World Radio that since November there have already been three attempts on the lives of Tembé Indigenous People.
Gonçalves, who is following the developments of the conflict, said that in the territory “there are more than 70 kilometres where there are always cars with private security men, who act together with the regional Military Police to criminalise and attack people.” “Torture, physical violence and psychological violence are commonplace.”
The MST member was interviewed on Tuesday by our comrades Lucia Ortiz and Diego Alejandro Cardona, from Friends of the Earth Brazil and CENSAT Agua Viva/Friends of the Earth Colombia, respectively. Both were participating with Gonçalves in the Peoples of the Earth March for the Amazon in Belém do Pará, as part of the “Amazon Dialogues”.
On 4 August 2023, a teenager was shot . The main suspects were members of BBF’s private security. In 2021, a young indigenous woman was murdered in one of the villages.
“The modus operandi of BBF is one of complete disregard for the owners of the land, who are the Indigenous Peoples and the Tembé people. The company is unable to establish any kind of relationship with them, accusing them of stealing the fruit of the palm that is planted on indigenous lands,” said Gonçalves.
Gonçalves added that the Brazilian state is also complicit in the violence, as it fails to properly deal with the company’s actions towards the Indigenous People. “The only response from the state is to send more troops against the Tembé people, not to defend their rights,” he objected.
Friends of the Earth Brazil issued a statement in solidarity with the Tembé people demanding that: “urgent measures be taken by the government of the state of Pará” to “protect the indigenous communities of Alto Acará”. The statement added: “Along the same lines, we demand an investigation to clarify the crimes, and to punish those responsible. Taking into account the historical territorial conflict, we recommend that the Federal Police follow the case.”
Gonçalves stated: “The Amazon rainforest which is up for sale may seem like an uninhabited Amazon, but that is not the case. It has always been inhabited by Indigenous Peoples, by the people who live along the rivers, the traditional peoples, the quilombolas (afro-descendants). All of them need to be heard (and taken into account) before pursuing any kind of development and exploration project in the region.