Letter: Brazil: making ancestral lands secure

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Sir: Whilst it is true that the Brazilian government should "put more resources into ensuring that indigenous lands are respected" as advocated in the article "Tribes who won't see the forest for the sleaze" (4 January), the key solution is one of land ownership. Brazil remains the only country in Latin America which does not recognise indigenous peoples' right to own their land. If Indians in Brazil are ever going to live in security on their ancestral lands, recognition of communal title is the fundamental prerequisite.

In Peru, for example, many indigenous communities have acquired communal land title around their villages and are in control of their territory; this has greatly reduced numbers of non-Indians invading and colonising their land.

In Brazil all too often powerful landowners and companies use the courts to obtain or uphold dubious title within Indian land, which constitutionally belongs to the state. One shocking example has just occurred in the south of Brazil, where a cattle rancher claiming title has forcibly evicted a community of Guarani Indians from an area demarcated as indigenous by the federal authorities. Banished to living in shacks by the roadside, the Indians now face a potentially long drawn-out battle in the courts in a climate of intimidation.


Director General


London WC1