Socio-environmental racism, land repossession, real-estate speculation, overlapping lands

The Pataxó historically live in the region where the Comexatibá Indigenous Land is located, in the municipality of Prado, in the far south of Bahia state. Since 1500, the region has been impacted by the colonization of Brazil. The state mistakenly came to call the region  “The Discovery Coast”. Many emblematic rights violations against original peoples occurred there, many were expelled from their lands, and there were frequent agrarian conflicts.

Indigenous people have been demanding the demarcation of the Comexatibá Indigenous Land for decades, but in the 2000s these appeals intensified when an important encounter took place in Porto Seguro, Bahia during the commemoration of Brazil’s 500th anniversary. It showed the world an organized alliance of Indigenous peoples from different Brazilian regions, all calling for their rights, especially regarding the demarcation of their original, ancestral lands. The encounter also revealed how the Brazilian government treats Indigenous people.  The mobilization marking 500 years was brutally repressed, with a vast number of rubber bullets, tear gas grenades, and other direct violence.

Since that year, the Pataxó of the far south of Bahia, including residents of the Indigenous Land, intensified the important process of self-demarcation of their lands.  They conducted a series of land retakings in an attempt to pressure the Brazilian government to demarcate areas that are proven to have originally been Pataxó.

Parallel to this process, the Discovery National Park was created in 1999.  The creation of this park, without consulting or seeking the participation of Indigenous communities, brought another challenge to the demarcation of the Indigenous Land, since the park overlaps with the borders of the historically Indigenous area. Since then, the Chico Mendes Institute for the Preservation of Biodiversity (ICMBio), the federal agency  responsible for conservation districts in Brazil, and its agents, have repeatedly pressured for the removal of families living in different Indigenous communities along the border of the park. About 19.6% of the area of the Discovery National Park encroaches upon the Indigenous Land. There are other sites that overlap with the Indigenous Land: 93.95% of the Cumuruxatiba Farm Settlement Project encroaches, 30.37% of the Reunidas Corumbau Settlement Project overlaps, and, according to a National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) land survey, there are a total of 78 alleged properties occupied by non-Indigenous people.

The progress of the Comexatibá Indigenous Land’s demarcation, and, more specifically, the publication in the Diário Oficial da União on 27 July 2015, of the Circumstantiated Identification and Delimitation Report, escalated the regional conflict. It stated that the Comexatibá Indigenous Land had a total of approximately 28,077 hectares. That same year, Kai village, which is situated within the Indigenous Land, suffered attacks. In August, an important cultural centre in the community was set on fire by armed men who invaded the community at night.  On 7 September, unidentified individuals lurking along one of the local routes to the village fired at a vehicle of a community leader.  At the end of September, armed men ambushed a community school transport vehicle, shooting at it a number of times and eventually setting it on fire.  

Another brutal attack, conducted with the help of the police, involved the repossession of lands from Kaí and Gurita villages on 19 January 2016. The event resulted in the violent destruction of dozens of Indigenous family’s homes, the burning of educational materials, and the destruction of tables and desks used by the students.

The Comexatibá Indigenous Land’s Indigenous communities also suffer the perverse encroachment of eucalyptus monoculture into their territory, which pollutes springs that feed rivers and causes the deforestation of important remnants of the region’s Atlantic Forest.  It harms the flora, fauna, and cultural memory of the Pataxó people.

It is worth noting that the non-Indigenous people, who claim property in the Indigenous Land and are opposed to the demarcation, are supported by the Prado Municipal Government, led by Mayor Mayra Brito, of the Progressive Party (PP), who is serving her second term.  She was re-elected in 2016, in an election marred with accusations of fraud, as has been pointed out by area leaders.  Various methods were employed to prevent those living in remote areas of the municipality – as is the case of Indigenous communities – from being able to reach the poles to vote. The Mayor even told various media outlets that she does not support the Comexatibá Indigenous Land demarcation, aligning herself with farmers and hotel and posada owners with lands inside the Indigenous territory.

The region of the Comexatibá Indigenous Land suffers intense real estate speculation, driven by intense tourism.  The village of Cumuruxatiba lies east of the Indigenous Land. In the past few years, it has become an important tourist destination in the municipality of Prado. There are large tourism projects in the Indigenous Land, such as hotels and large posadas, whose owners struggle fiercely against demarcation, and have even hired an anthropologist to conduct a study to question the Indigenous people.  There are also large cattle ranches, as well as monoculture coffee and eucalyptus plantations,  which harm Indigenous communities in different ways, either by direct combat by gunmen, or by intense deforestation and damage to the rivers and soil through the indiscriminate use of pesticides and herbicides.

Indigenous leaders from the Indigenous Land are often commonly treated as criminals.  This year, Human Rights Defenders Program representatives met with Indigenous people to discuss the issue. Six Indigenous leaders entered the program, due to death threats. The Indigenist Missionary Council (Cimi), the Brazilian Public Defender’s Office, and the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) also participated in the meeting.  It was held so that the communities could report to these organizations about attacks.  At the end of 2019 alone, there were five attacks against villages and leaders of the Indigenous Land, and an increase in the number of threats.

This year, with the arrival of Covid-19, which quickly reached the municipality of Prado, there was great stress among the communities of the Indigenous Land.  They have long suffered neglect by the public health system, and also suffered from the scrapping of the Secretaria Especial de Saúde Indígena (Sesai/MS) [Special Secretariat of Indigenous Health].  There are no hospital facilities near the communities in case they need hospitalization.  For this reason, some Indigenous people, who were not in high-risk groups, met to create a sanitary barrier staffed by volunteer residents of the town of Cumuruxatiba.  The purpose was to slow the entrance of outsiders, especially less-conscientious tourists, who did not sufficiently respect our residents or, most importantly, our elders. The barrier volunteers warned people of the risk of mass contamination, which would certainly reach the Indigenous villages near the town.  The Indigenous people blocked two junctures of state highway BA-001, which connects the municipal center  to the districts of Corumbau and Vila de Cumuruxatiba, in an attempt to block the spread of the virus to these communities. Despite all of these measures, there was a frightening spread of the disease to Indigenous people in the area, including Special Secretariat of Indigenous Health workers at the Itamaraju health clinic, who directly serve the communities.  This caused great fear among Indigenous people, since according to their leaders, they had no support from the responsible agencies such as the National Indian Foundation, the Special Secretariat of Indigenous Health, the Indigenous Social Assistance Reference Centers or the Prado Municipal Government.


Links:

andrade, Domingos. 2020. Povo Pataxó interdita rodovia para evitar circulação de turistas e contaminação de aldeias no sul da Bahia. In: Conselho Indigenista Missionário – Notícias. Brasília, 29 abr. Available at: https://cimi.org.br/2020/04/povo-pataxo-interdita-rodovia-turistas-aldeias-covid-19-bahia/. Accessed: 20 Aug. 2019.

brasil de fato. 2020. STF suspende processos de reintegração de posse em áreas indígenas durante a pandemia. In: Brasil de Fato. São Paulo. Available at: https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2020/05/06/stf-suspende-processos-de-reintegracao-de-posse-em-areas-indigenas-durante-a-pandemia. Accessed: 20 Aug. 2019.

miotto, Tiago. 2020. Povo Pataxó amplia barreiras contra covid-19 e cobra providências do Estado. In: Conselho Indigenista Missionário – Notícias. Brasília, 14 maio. Available at: https://cimi.org.br/2020/05/povo-pataxo-amplia-barreiras-covid-19-providencias-estado/. Accessed: 20 Aug. 2019.

scalco, Tatiana. 2020. Série de ataques contra os Pataxó da TI Comexatibá motiva reunião com o Programa Nacional de Defensores. In: Conselho Indigenista Missionário – Notícias. Brasília, 17 jan. Available at: https://cimi.org.br/2020/01/serie-de-ataques-contra-os-pataxo-da-ti-comexatiba-motiva-reuniao-com-o-programa-nacional-de-defensores/. Accessed: 20 Aug. 2019.

universidade federal da bahia. 2016. Manifestação da UFBA: Terra Indígena Comexatibá. Salvador, 21 jan. Available at: https://ufba.br/ufba_em_pauta/manifesta%C3%A7%C3%A3o-da-ufba-terra-ind%C3%ADgena-comexatiba. Accessed: 20 Aug. 2019.

Peoples impactedPataxó
Indigenous Lands impactedComexatibá
StateBA
RegionExtremo Sul
MunicipalityPrado
Period of ViolationDe 2000 até hoje.
Type(s) of population Rural
Source(s) of information Scientific Article
Site
Other sourcesMovimento Unido dos Povos e Organizações Indígenas da Bahia (Mupoiba)
Cause(s) of violation Land conflicts
Biodiversity / conservation conflicts
Tourism and recreation
Specific materials Celulose
Tourism services
Land
Company(s) and government entity(s)Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), empresários do setor hoteleiro e do setor turístico em geral, fazendeiros, Prefeitura Municipal de Prado
Relevant government actorsNational Indian Foundation, Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (Incra) [National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform], Secretariat of Indigenous Health
Type(s) of financing National
Public
Private
O estado da mobilização diante da violação High (general organising, en masse, violence, prisons, etc)
When did the organising start?A mobilização indígena na região, de longa data, intensificou-se a partir da criação do Parque Nacional (Parna) do Descobrimento (PND), em 1999. As tensões aumentaram quando as retomadas de terras se tornaram recorrentes, e se inflamaram expressivamente durante a realização dos estudos de identificação e delimitação da Terra Indígena (TI) Comexatibá. Quando o atual presidente da República foi eleito, os conflitos aumentaram outra vez, posto que ele já declarou ser totalmente contrário aos povos indígenas. Mais recentemente, a chegada da Covid-19 tem deixado o povo Pataxó em alerta.
Group(s) that are organising Scientists / local professionals
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Form(s) of organisingAs comunidades se articulam em reuniões com as lideranças da Terra Indígena (TI) Comexatibá, e têm participando de audiências públicas com o governo do estado da Bahia, com o acompanhamento da Secretaria de Justiça, Direitos Humanos e Desenvolvimento e do Ministério Público Federal (MPF), inclusive da Sexta Câmara de Coordenação e Revisão (6CCR).
Environmental impactsVisible
Health impactsPotential
Socio-economic impactsVisible
Positive progress in the violation processThe Federal Appeals Court (TRF-1) temporarily suspended acts of land repossession in the Comexatibá Indigenous Land until they issued a decision. The publication of the Circumstantiated Identification and Delimitation Report for the Indigenous Land in the Diário Oficial da União in 2015, represented an enormously important tool in the struggle for definitive demarcation of the area. Another advance, although provisional, was the suspension during the pandemic ordered by Federal Supreme Court Judge Edson Fachin of all judicial proceedings in Brazil regarding land repossessions and annulments of Indigenous Land demarcations.
Negative progress in the violation processSetbacks in this process include the government’s mobilizations against Indigenous people, not just by the police, but also by the Chico Mendes Institute for the Preservation of Biodiversity, [responsible for environmental conservation districts in Brazil], and most significantly, by the Prado municipal government and mayor, who has repeatedly declared opposition to the demarcation, alleging that they support businesses and tourism in the municipality.
Viable alternatives for a solution to the violationOne of the main demands of the Indigenous people of Bahia is the guarantee of their territorial rights. One viable option would be the demarcation of the state’s Indigenous lands, since this would certainly greatly diminish the existing conflicts and allow Indigenous families to live with dignity and feel protected on their lands. Access to basic public services would be reinforced by demarcation, guaranteeing communities their rights to education, health, and security, among other things. The federal government and its various agencies are directly responsible for the tensions created by the recurring violations committed by the Brazilian state against Indigenous people, specifically the Pataxó.
Date form filled out01/09/2019

Daniel da Silva

Daniel da Silva

Daniel da Silva é jovem do povo Pataxó, da Terra Indígena Comexatibá, aldeia Kaí. Graduando em Geografia na Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBA).