Guarani-Kaiowá, threatened people (1/3)

Alexis Demoment – Translated by Pauline Veron
10 Septembre 2015



At the occasion of the “Summit of Conscience for the Climate”, Valdelice Veron, a Guarani-Kaiowá leader, came to Paris on the 21st of July to deliver a striking testimony before the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (ESEC) on the plight of her people. The campaign was called “Why do I care”. After years of struggle amid general indifference, this could mark the beginning of a real awareness of the international community on this topic. Nevertheless, the road may be long and the public opinion is far from being aware of it.


Valdenice Veron at the Summit of Conscience. Screenshot YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbFoSdRAyBo
Valdenice Veron at the Summit of Conscience. Screenshot YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbFoSdRAyBo
“Genocide”. The word is strong. It is used by Guarani-Kaiowás themselves, as well as by their defenders. Supported by figures, the expression seems appropriate: throughout the last decade, approximately 300 of them have been assassinated.

The massacre

Crédit: Carlos Latuff
Crédit: Carlos Latuff
Poison put in their water sources, arson, with the notbale recent example of the 22nd of June, when a child died and a whole village was destroyed, hiring of contract killers… The methods used are diverse. Why do they suffer all this? Because their “tekoha”, the land they live in, where their ancestors rest, is nothing more and nothing less than a cultivable territory for large Brazilian farmers. As the entire ecosystem, they are victims of the massive deforestation of the agro-industry and end up in overcrowded makeshifts camps in the periphery or on the roadside.

Photo free of rights
Photo free of rights
In addition to frequent murders, the daily life of Guarani-Kaiowás is still tragic. Often living in great poverty, they are especially affected by malnutrition. Approximately 80% of them depend on food vouchers from the state, often distributed in tiny amounts and with random frequencies. Thus, their life expectancy is very short: 45 years old for adults while it is 73 years old for Brazilians in general. Concerning children, their life expectancy is fourteen years lower than the one of Iraqi children, born in a war-torn country. Suicide is also far more frequent in this community than in the rest of the country. Several cases of child suicide have even been identified, while it is a very rare phenomenon around the world. 

Exploited by the industry

In order to survive, most of them work in plantations or factories of the agro-industry. Their poverty situation enables their employers to make them work for very low wages and in conditions resembling modern slavery. The businesses held liable for these practices include the French multinational company Louis Dreyfus Commodities through its Brazilian branch Bioenergia. In November 2009, the group had been condemned by the law for illegal labour subcontracting and non-compliance with the labour code. 

The editorial staff attempted to reach Bioenergia, in order to know how the situation had evolved on the spot since the conviction, but the company did not communicated any answer to date. Following Valdelice Veron’s public speaking before the ESEC, the NGO Envol vert, on its website, demanded from Louis Dreyfus Commodities to “implement without further delay a Zero deforestation policy on all their raw materials”.

For their survival, Guarani-Kaiowás defend themselves particularly through legal means, fighting illegal monopolization of the land. Insisting on the fact that their revolt has always been non-violent, they also attempt to raise public awareness of their fate.  

Notez