The recent events in the Roosevelt Indigenous Land, in Espigão D' Oeste, State of Rondônia, which resulted in the death of 29 people, brought to the headlines a conflict that involves Cinta-Larga Indians and garimpeiros (illegal diggers) that has been dragging for some years. The president of the Fundação Nacional do Índio – National Indian Foundation – (Funai), Mércio Pereira Gomes, declared that the Indians were defending their lands from the invaders. The Minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, insisted on the illegality of the presence of the garimpeiros in the lands of the Indians.
The Special Secretary for Human Rights, Nilmário Miranda, recognized the illegality, but condemned the assassinations. The Rondônia State governor, Ivo Cassol, compared the episode to the invasions of rural properties carried out by the Movement of the Landless (Movimento dos Sem-Terra), which are illegal, but whose participants are not killed by the landowners. It must be remembered, in any case, that mining activities in Indigenous Lands are outlawed.
Behind this tragedy there are other interests, such as, for instance, the contraband of diamonds. Since the murder of Carlito Cinta-Larga, in December of 2001 – a crime still unsolved – the tension in the region has been on the increase. In 2002 there were attempts to expel the garimpeiros. Through the then-Secretary of the Human Rights, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the Ministry of Justice and the Funai, the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration promised to provide support to actions to remove the garimpeiros. A party that included government authorities and representatives of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office visited the area. In late 2002, at last, the federal government created a task force in charge of the implementation of an emergency plan with the Cinta-Larga.
In 2003, with the new federal administration, the Funai, under new management, designated the Special Advisor for the Presidency of the Republic Walter Blós to coordinate the task force. Blós is headquarted at Funai’s administration in Cacoal, State of Rondônia. From January to August of 2003, the garimpo (mining field) in Roosevelt Indigenous Land remained closed and the garimpeiros were kept out. The conflict resumed in October, however, when some 100 garimpeiros threatened to invade the garimpo once again. At the time the number of garimpeiros was overestimated – it was said that they numbered 1,000 –, with the support of the local press, in order to intimidate the Indians. Controls in the accesses to the garimpo were then reinforced, while others were set up. Blós requested help from the Federal Police in the municipality of Pimenta Bueno, also in Rondônia. Traditionally a tribe of warriors, the Cinta-Larga reaffirmed their disposition to put up with no more invasions.
At that time, the anthropologist João Dal Poz, from the Mato Grosso Federal University, who works with the Cinta-Larga, made an alert in an interview to ISA: “Today there are 100 garimpeiros, but if there is a chance in 24 hours there will be 1,000, or 10,000, because there are many people in the cities that have nothing to so.” The indigenista (expert on Indians) Maria Inês Hargreaves warned then: “A crime of genocide is taking place because of the economic exploitation of diamond mining”. So here’s the result of the negligence of the authorities with the illegal mining activities in the lands of the Cinta-Larga Indian: dozens of deaths and ambushes with victims, both among Indians and garimpeiros, since 1999.
The confrontation of early April is a consequence of the latent tension between the two groups, which has been widely denounced and divulged in national and international forums. In June of 2003, the Relatório sobre Direitos Humanos, Econômicos, Sociais e Culturais – Report on Human, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – (DhESC) described, among others, the case of the Cinta-Larga. In the end of September of 2003, the National Rapporteur for the Human Right to the Environment, Jean Pierre Leroy, worried, sent a letter to the Minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, asking for actions in the face of the worsening of the situation and of the imminence of an armed conflict between the Cinta-Larga and garimpeiros.
A campaign to defend the Cinta-Larga people was started on October 22, 2003, and continues to date. In November, Leroy visited the area again, this time with the Under Prosecutor of the Republic, Ela Wiecko Volkmer, and prepared a report that was sent to the administration with recommendations and warnings regarding the gravity of the situation. The history of the Cinta-Larga is marked by confrontations since the 1920s, when the areas where they lived began to be invaded by whites. First were rubber tappers, next lumberjacks, who practically destroyed the forest to get hardwood. In 1999, with the discovery of the diamond mine in the Roosevelt Reservation, considered one of Brazil’s largest, came the garimpeiros. Like the lumberjacks, they leave behind them a trail of destruction and environmental degradation, drug trafficking, alcoholism, prostitution and disaggregation of the cultural traditions and of the communities proper.
Where the Cinta-Larga live
||The Cinta-Larga people is comprised of approximately 1,300 Indians (they were some 5,000 in 1968) scattered in 25 villages and eight Indigenous Posts in the Roosevelt, Parque Aripuanã, Aripuanã and Serra Morena Indigenous Lands, located on the border of the States of Mato Grosso and Rondônia (click on the map to amplify).
A chronology of deaths and tragedies
1963 – A Cinta-Larga village on the Aripuanã River is attacked by rubber tappers from the Companhia Andrade e Junqueira, a private company. The attack became known as The Massacre of Parallel 11. Because of it Brazil is denounced for the first time for violation of indigenous rights.
1969 – The just-created Fundação Nacional do Índio – Indian National Foundation – (Funai) makes contact with the Cinta-Larga.
1999 – Diamonds are discovered in the Roosevelt Indigenous Land.
2000 – Garimpeiros invade the Cinta-Larga lands in search of diamonds.
December of. 2001/2002 – Cinta-Larga Indians are murdered: Carlito Cinta-Larga (December 19, 2001) and César Cinta-Larga (April of 2002).
March of 2002 – The removal of the garimpeiros begins.
April of 2002 – Four Cinta-Larga chiefs (Nacoça Pio, João Cinta-Larga, Alzac Tataré and Amaral) are arrested by the Federal Police. Another invasion by garimpeiros.
January to August of 2003 – The removal of the garimpeiros is effective.
June of 2003 – Report on Human, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (DhESC) denounces the case of the Cinta-Larga people.
October of 2003 – Garimpeiros threaten to invade the area. The Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights visit Roosevelt village. The Indians complain against the harassment and violence they are subjected to and warn that they will resist invasions.
November of 2003 – The National Rapporteur for the Human Right to the Environment, Jean-Pierre Leroy, visits the area with the Under Prosecutor of the Republic, Ella Volkmer. He writes a report to the government warning about the gravity of the situation of the Cinta-Larga.
April of 2004 – The bodies of 29 garimpeiros are found in the Roosevelt Indigenous Land.
Learn more about the Cinta-Larga.
April, 19, 2004