Brazil: Navy Surrounds Quilombo Community Slated for Eviction

March 9th, 2012

Quilombo Rio de Macacos in Bahia, one of the oldest communities of descendents of slaves in Brazil, woke up enclosed by military police threatening their eviction on Sunday morning, March 4, 2012.

The Brazilian Navy hold an order for repossession of the lands on which 50 families live, as Global Voices reported on February 21. However, it was guaranteed in a hearing with the Brazilian federal government on February 27 that the eviction would be suspended for five months [pt] until the conclusion of a Technical Identification and Delimitation Report from the National Institute of Colonisation and Agrarian Reform (Incra).

“Article 68 in the 1998 Constitution and the Decree 4887/2003 guarantee the rights of the community’s centuries-long occupation,” explains sociologist and president of the Development Council of the Black Community in Bahia, Villma Reis, one of the first persons to react [pt] publicly on March 4 after the siege by the police:

“Scheduled for today, March 4, 2012, and suspended by action of the Presidency of the Republic (General Secretary for Policies regarding the Promotion of Racial Equality, SEPPIR and Palmares Culture Foundation, FCP), the takeover of the Quilombo Rio dos Macacos territory is currently experiencing great tension as there are now three navy trucks inside the community, each one carrying around 80 men. Outside are the Bahia military (who cannot enter) and 1 tractor positioned at the entrance of Vila Naval, an area repossessed from the community 42 years ago.”

The Ondina settlement of the Occupy Salvador movement rapidly created an event [pt] on Facebook after receiving requests for help from two local activists. A call for a solidarity “occupation” of the quilombo was soon made. A map showing how to get to the community was shared, and more information was uploaded throughout the day.

“The sense of solidarity with the people of Quilombo do Rio dos Macacos was fundamental in order for the Navy to retreat and withdraw their trucks, marines and the tractor from the area of Quilombo,” announced [pt] the Bahia blog network.

The blog also republished the testimony of one activist who responded to the call and spent the day in the community along with around 300 other individuals, including representatives of various organizations, activists from the black people’s movement, university students and school kids.

Poliana Rebouças, described the following events:

Plenary in Quilombo Rio dos Macacos. Photo shared by Poliana Rebouças on Facebook.

“The mobilisation began with a visit by some groups to bring food to the community, as fishing and farming in the area was previously prevented by the Navy under the threat of eviction. Upon arrival, the group came across tractors, armed military police, and police vehicles, which suggested an additional threat of eviction. The inhabitants reported that they were threatened at dawn, hearing gunshots and other forms of intimidation, through [sic] psychological pressure. The Navy prevented the whole group from entering the Quilombo, leading most to enter from the back, and afterwards set up a commission to enter the Quilombo and provide food and assess the situation of the inhabitants. In the early afternoon, the situation was under control, contact was made with representatives from the ministry of defence who guaranteed that there would be no eviction for 5 months, the deadline by which inhabitants have to show proof that they are descendents from the original quilombo of that region.”

The same blog shared testimony by an anonymous naval officer who said that “the troop’s presence there was a coincidence and a routine operation.”

Journalist Daniela Novais, from the site Câmara em Pauta, reaffirmed the guarantee promised by the Federal Government “that the community’s rights would be preserved”, adding [pt]:

“The corporation (Brazilian Navy) still hasn’t made a statement and limited itself to informing the community that a message would be sent by the communications office of the military once authorisation is granted. We from Câmara em Pauta hope that the government of Bahia vigorously intervenes so as not to repeat the human rights violations seen in the repossession of Pinheirinho, in São José dos Campos, São Paulo.”

Like Novais, who considered that “Quilombo Rio dos Macacos lived a Pinheirinho day” [pt] several other internet users mentioned [pt] the repossession of Pinheirinho that took place on January 22 under excessive police force, as reported by Global Voices.

In regards to the community’s safety, a note was republished [pt] by Sandra Martuscelli (@PersonalEscrito) on Twitter reflecting the fear shared by many:

“no one knows what will happen after this collective is dismantled, there is no security in terms of what will happen tonight, tomorrow, throughout the week…”

petition for the preservation of possession and title of the lands of Quilombo do Rio dos Macacos[pt] has been circulating. It recalls the quilombola community’s rights enshrined in the constitution, while reinforcing the claim for “the “demarcation, titling and ownership of the lands occupied by descendents of the quilombola people, allowing the continuity of these communities, which should be considered as the greatest proof of a symbol of the struggle against slavery, in the past, and racism, in the present”.

Source: Global Voices

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