Brazilian Gunmen Brandish Indigenous Hit List

Gunmen in Brazil are brazenly intimidating indigenous communities with a hit list of prominent leaders, following the high profile murder of Nísio Gomes last month.

Reportedly employed by powerful landowners in Mato Grosso do Sul state, the gunmen are creating a climate of fear to prevent Guarani Indians from returning to their ancestral land.

Guarani leader Nísio Gomes was murdered by gunmen.
Guarani leader Nísio Gomes was murdered by gunmen.
© Survival

The tactics employed in recent incidents have been almost identical. Gunmen encircle vehicles transporting Guarani, force them to stop, and then verbally abuse and interrogate passengers about the names on the hit list.

One Guarani leader told Survival, ’They’ve pinpointed us and they’re set to kill us. We’re at great risk. Here in Brazil, we have no justice. We have nowhere left to run.’

On Sunday, around 100 Guarani returning from a meeting in the district of Iguatemi were targeted. Guarani witnesses told Survival one of the four men involved was a local mayor.

The Guarani said the men shouted insults such as, ‘We’re going to burn these buses full of Indians!’ Members of a government team were also present at the scene.

Continued threats have also forced the son of an assassinated leader to flee his community. Ranchers killed Marcos Veron in 2003 after he repeatedly tried to recover a small piece of his community’s ancestral land – his son Ladio is now being targeted.

Marcos Veron was killed in 2003 during an attempt to return to his land.
Marcos Veron was killed in 2003 during an attempt to return to his land.
© Joaó Ripper/Survival

Gomes’ killers have yet to be arrested, but last week Brazil’s Public Ministry said six men had been charged with the murder of two Guarani teachers in 2009.

The accused include a notorious Brazilian rancher who held the teachers’ community hostage, and local politicians.

Survival International, founded in 1969 after an article by Norman Lewis in the UK's Sunday Times highlighted the massacres, land thefts and genocide taking place in Brazilian Amazonia, is the only international organization supporting tribal peoples worldwide. Contact Survival International at: Read other articles by Survival International, or visit Survival International's website.