“In Brazil, when a minority tries to get itself heard, the police is sent in”
The Maracana village matter sheds some light on two problems that are afflicting Brazil these days: the government’s utter contempt for indigenous peoples and the real estate bubble that is continuing to grow a year prior to the World Cup.When [in 2007] Brazil was chosen to host the 2014 World Cup, the Maracana village became highly prized by real estate agents who started wrangling over this ideally-located space, positioned right against the Maracana stadium [Editor’s note: where several World Cup games will take place].Indigenous tribes decided to occupy the space to show the authorities that this building has historical and spiritual importance for them. But in Brazil, whenever minorities try to get themselves heard, the police is sent in to crack down on them, often with force. On March 22, the police reaction was really disproportionate. Some policemen were armed with high-caliber weapons such as sonic rifles.Armed vehicle belonging to the military police. Photo uploaded to Twitpic by our Observer.
“To the indigenous people, it’s more than a run-down building”
The situation very quickly got out of hand. Some of the indigenous people decided to light a bonfire and then to dance around it to mark their departure. A spark accidentally landed on a tent and started a fire, which was immediately put out by firefighters.However, the police decided that the fire had been intentionally set and so they reacted in a very aggressive manner, spraying the crowd with tear gas and pepper spay. In the video that I filmed, Marcelo Freixo [Editor’s note: a member of parliament belonging to the Socialism and Liberty party], who saw the incident unfold, stated that the fire was completely accidental.Now, the Maracana village is empty. The police are guarding it so that nobody can enter the building. Over the past week, protests for indigenous rights have been organized all over the city.Last Sunday, I attended a public meeting at the local courthouse that brought together indigenous representatives and members of FUNAI [Editor’s note: a government organization focused on indigenous issues] to find a mutually agreeable solution. But the indigenous groups do not want to relinquish their claim on Maracana village, which for them is not a run-down building but fully part of their territory.Traditional indigenous ceremony at Maracana village. Video uploaded to YouTube.