‘Existence Itself Is a Battle’: Indigenous Brazilians Live in Fear Under Temer

‘Existence Itself Is a Battle’: Indigenous Brazilians Live in Fear Under Temer
Indigenous Brazilians from various ethnic groups take part in a protest against the policies of President Michel Temer, Brasilia, Brazil, April 26, 2018 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

RIO DE JANEIRO—The Brazilian ranchers staged their attack at night, bearing machetes, firearms and slabs of wood as they descended on the settlement inhabited by members of the indigenous Gamela tribe. According to some reports, the ranchers had assembled earlier in the day at a barbecue, where they drank heavily before setting out.

More than a dozen members of the Gamela tribe were seriously injured in the ranchers’ assault. Five of them were shot, and two had their hands cut off. There were no reported fatalities.

The attack, which occurred in April 2017 in the northeastern state of Maranhao, did not come out of nowhere. In the days leading up to it, members of the Gamela tribe, whose total population is unknown, had moved onto land that had previously been used by the ranchers; the Gamela say the land was stolen from them during Brazil’s era of military dictatorship. But despite warnings that the standoff could lead to violence, police had not been stationed nearby.

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