Last June 22, a group of 15 indigenous people invaded the Terra Vista III farm. Located in the municipality of Prado, in the extreme south of Bahia, it covers 600 hectares and borders the Discovery National Park. It has legalized documentation for six decades and has belonged to the same family for 20 years. It produces eucalyptus, black pepper and cattle and follows all the criteria for environmental preservation – more than half of the area is kept for preservation.
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Using three Mitsubishi L200 Triton vehicles taken from public agencies in the region in the weeks prior to the action, including the National Indian Foundation (Funai), the attackers detained five farm workers and ten other outsourced workers. Detained for two hours, they were only released upon payment of a ransom, in the form of 2,000 liters of diesel oil. Since then, the group has remained there.
In mid-August, the owners, who no longer had access to the farm’s headquarters, nor to their own machinery maintained on site, approached the border and sent drones into the territory. They filmed armed indigenous people burning eucalyptus trees. As soon as they realized that their actions were being recorded, the indigenous people used one of the vehicles taken to travel, at speed and heavily armed, the route to the border of the farm. Despite the threats, the owners are not successful in their attempts to repossess the site.
Sought by the report, the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) in Bahia reported that “it has been following the land conflicts in southern Bahia, including opening investigations to investigate the current situation of disputes in indigenous territories”. He continued: “At the moment, the MPF maintains constant contact with the responsible authorities to investigate the situation, avoid new conflicts and seek the safety of indigenous communities. In this sense, constant dialogues are carried out with the Federal Police, Military Police and Funai, urging the bodies to act in the place of conflicts. In the judicial sphere, the MPF has been involved in several repossession actions, monitoring the correct application of the law”.
Regarding the specific case of the Terra Vista III farm, he said: “At the moment, we will not provide further details on the case”. Funai, on the other hand, expressed itself in a note, published on August 22nd, which makes it clear that it is trying to negotiate a withdrawal of the invaders: “Funai makes it public to clarify that, as a public institution, based on the supremacy of the public interest, it does not may be consistent with any type of unlawful conduct. Therefore, Funai is responsible for adopting measures to clarify the indigenous people about the illegality of their conduct and to discourage practices that correspond to the confiscation or disturbance of properties, under penalty of liability for omission”.
The Funai note reinforces the farm owners’ argument: even though the local indigenous people question the work carried out there and maintain claims in court regarding the possession of that specific territory, there is no decision supporting the invasion. “The action, individual or collective, incurs a serious deformation of the democratic regime, which, under the pretext of pressing for the quick and unconditional response to demands, leads to the use of strategies based on truculence, turpitude and total contempt for the most elementary standards of civility and wisdom”, says the body dedicated to protecting the indigenous population in their legitimate demands.
“The extreme attachment, even when not intentional, to the maxim that ‘the ends justify the means’, under which point of view it is fitting to make use of everything imaginable to impose the aspirations of a person or a group dissatisfied with a given situation, opens the door to the installation of a dangerous, ignoble and retrograde framework of barbarism, putting at serious risk the feeling of social peace and strongly destabilizing public order”.
The agency also informs that “it has been committed and promoted actions to raise awareness among indigenous communities about the unfeasibility of the practice of illicit acts”. In fact, the foundation filed a search and seizure request for its official vehicle “improperly retained by indigenous people”.
Nothing to declare
In recent years, other properties have been occupied by the group, which is called the Peasant Resistance Movement and operates in the south of Bahia. In general, they seize official vehicles, occupy farms, evict officials for ransom and plunder property. Wanted by phone call, one of the main leaders of the occupation did not answer the report.
As for the owners of the Terra Vista III farm, they have already filed requests for help with different institutions, from the state government of Bahia to the Federal Public Ministry. For its part, the Association of Eucalyptus Producers of the Extreme South of Bahia (Aspex) called for measures against the attack. And he recalled that “every invasion action, especially when carried out with the degradation of productive cultures, even more with the use of burning, is a crime, contrary to multiple norms, including environmental ones, and can never be equated with any kind of legitimate action, whether whatever the motivation.”
The entity recalls that the action led to panic among the producing families in the region. “We have hundreds of producers, families and employees, as well as service providers and the entire production chain of planted forests that are directly affected by the occurrence and also by the absolute insecurity that has arisen from the real threat of forest fires, invasions and depredation of productive rural properties in this region of the extreme south, in just fear of injury to the most basic rights of a citizen”.