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Agroindustry in Mato Grosso displaces the Guaraní-Kaiowá from their ancestral lands, Brazil


Since the beginning of the 1980s, the Guarani-Kaiowá people has been gradually forced to leave their traditional settlements as a consequence of the deforestation to get soy and cane plantations. A tragic event happened in 2003. The killing of Guarani leader Marcos Veron was an all too typical example of the violence that his people are subject to (8). Aged around 70, was the leader of the Guarani-Kaiowá community of Takuára. For fifty years his people had been trying to recover a small piece of their ancestral land after it was turned into a vast cattle ranch. Most of the forest that once covered the area had since been cleared. In April 1997, Marcos led his community back onto the ranch. They began to rebuild their houses and could plant their own crops again. But the rancher who had occupied the area went to court, and a judge ordered the Indians out. In October 2001, more than one hundred heavily armed police and soldiers forced the Indians to leave their land once more. They eventually ended up living under plastic sheets by the side of a highway. In 2003 during another attempt to return peacefully to his land, he was viciously beaten by employees of the rancher. He died a few hours later. This continued eviction process has worsened the Guarani-Kaiowá living conditions.  In 2012 it was reported that the situation of the guarani-kaiowá, a large indigenous group, was very grave. They were concentrated in the area of Dourados in Matto Grosso do Sul. Their suicide rate was over 100 per 100,000 inhabitants. They have been dispossessed of their lands by planters and cattle ranchers. They were dispossessed of their "Tekoha" which means "the place where we are what we are". The "ruralistas" of Mato Grosso exercise violence against the  Guarani and Kaiowa (1). A woman indigenous leader was killed in 2014 central-western Brazil, after campaigning for her tribe’s ancestral land to be returned. Marinalva Manoel, a 27-year-old was raped and stabbed to death. Her body was found on the side of a highway. She had traveled over 1,000 km to the capital, Brasília, to insist that the authorities fulfill their legal duty to return the land to the Guarani before more of their people are killed. The Aty  Guasu (Guarani Council) which voices the Indians’ demands,  released a letter calling on the authorities to investigate the murder, and proclaiming, “No more Guarani deaths!”. In 2015 there were more than ten paramilitary attacks on various communities. The aim is to expel indigenous peoples from the land they regain so that planters of soybeans and cattle ranchers can continue their expansion. The attacks were unleashed by militias under the control of farmer/ranchers and resulted in the assassination of one leader and the injury of dozens of others, including children and old people. In the same vein, the paramilitary attack on the Ñanderu Marang.  The assassination of the Guarani and Kaiowá indigenous Simeão Vilhalva, in August 2015, is an outstanding case. The attack was prepared in the Rural Union of the Municipality of Antônio João and employers association leaders, big landowners and even federal parliamentarian took part (1). Prior to the action, a wave of lies and rumors was spread by some of the big farmers to create an atmosphere, in the regional population, of terror and hostility against the indigenous people in a preconceived bid to legitimize the attack that was about to be perpetrated. Again in June 2016, a land dispute turned deadly, leaving Clodiodi de Souza dead, and five others seriously wounded. Sometimes indigenous people seize private property they claim as their ancestral lands and farmers respond with deadly violence. On 12 June 2016 dozens of Guarani-Kaiowá occupied Fazenda Yvu, a neighboring farm that belongs to one of the founders of a local agricultural association, in an act they describe as “retaking” their original lands. After a day of failed negotiations between police, white farmers and the indigenous people, at least 100 of the farmers returned on the morning of 14 June. According to the local state prosecutor, Marco Almeida, some of the landowners opened fire, killing one of the Guarani-Kaiowá and wounding six others. One was a 12-year-old boy, who was shot in the stomach. A month later, on 17 July, the Conselho Indigenista Missionário (Cimi), a Catholic organisation dedicated to the defence of indigenous rights, reported that another group of Guarani-Kaiowá occupying farms around Caarapó had come under attack, with three men, including a teenager, shot by a group suspected of links with local landowners.(6)

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Agroindustry in Mato Grosso displaces the Guaraní-Kaiowá from their ancestral lands, Brazil
State or province:Mato Grosso do Sul
Location of conflict:Dourados
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Soybeans

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Attempts by Guarani-Kaiowá to keep their own land or to recuperate it from large "fazendas" has led to violent clashes. Young female and male leaders have been killed. There is despair, more than one thousand, mostly young, Guarani, have committed suicide in the last 10 years (3) – much more than the average Brazilian suicide rate. But such is the depth of despair and hopelessness in the tribe which has lost nearly 95% of its ancestral land to industrial scale biofuels, sugar cane and soya plantations. Main soy companies in Mato Grosso are the Grupo Maggi and Bom Futuro. Many other planters are involved. For instance, the death of S. Vilhalva in 2015 took place in the municipality of Antonio João, Mato Grosso do Sul, after an attack by "ruralistas" on the Guarani Kaiowá in their land Ñanderu Marangatu. The "ruralistas" attempted to dislodge them through judicial actions. Then came the attack: fazendeiros with land occupied by the indigenous groups were called in by the president of the Sindicato Rural, owner of the Fazenda Fronteira.(4) (5)

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:50,000
Start of the conflict:1990
Company names or state enterprises:Grupo Andre Maggi from Brazil
Bom Futuro from Brazil
Sidicato Ruralista from Brazil
Relevant government actors:Funai (Fundação Nacional do Índio); Ministério Público Federal (MPF);
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Guarani Indian repatriation movement; Aty-Guasu Council;
FIAN Brasil and FIAN International Action Network; ONU Mulheres Brasil; Combate Racismo Ambiental; Survival International; Indigenous Missionary Council (IMC); Land Pastoral Commission (CPT)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
"Collective death" :If they insist to take indigenous out of their lands they are going to die. They are not going to get out alive from their ancestral lands.


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Other Health impactsSuicide: 1,000, mostly young, Guarani, have killed themselves in the last 10 years throughout Brazil.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Violent targeting of activists
Proposal and development of alternatives:-Land Demarcation
-The respect of the Brazilean Constitution of 1988 which guarantees Indigenous Peoples land rights through the recognition that Indigenous Peoples are the first and natural owners of the land.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Brazil is to become the world’s largest producer and exporter of soy, which has greatly boosted its economy and generated US$ 31.27 billion in revenue in 2015. Millions of acres in Mato Grosso are being designated for soy farming, causing deforestation and violence in Indigenous lands. The violent scenario for the Guaraní-Kaiowá seems to be the same in the following years.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Observations on the State of Indigenous Human Rights in Brazil

(1) Relatório Violência contra os Povos Indígenas no Brasil – dados de 2015.

Guarani Activist Leader Brutally Murdered in Brazil

(4) Mais um capítulo sangrento da saga Guarani-Kaiowá

(3) John Vidal, Brazil's Guarani Indians killing themselves over loss of ancestral land

Larissa Ramina, Guarani-kaiowá: a tragédia anunciada. 2/11/2012

Brazil: Guarani 'despair' as female leader murdered

Conmoción por una carta sobre la "muerte colectiva" de indígenas en Brasil

(6) The Guardian, 14 July 2016, Dispute turns deadly as indigenous Brazilians try to 'retake' ancestral land. Farmers in Mato Grosso do Sul are responding with violence as Brazil’s Guarani-Kaiowá community attempt to occupy land they regard as theirs by right.

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

(2) O genocídio Guarani e Kaiowa no Mato Grosso do Sul, 4 de julho de 2016

Public Note from ONU Mulheres Brasil

FIAN International: Public Statement to Brazilian Authorities by the International Council of FIAN International

(Radio-Interview) Marinalva, mais uma guarani-kaiowá assassinada


FIAN internacional. 28-11-2016. Guarani y Kaiowá traen su “tekohá” a la CIDH. Los líderes Guarani y Kaiowá de Brasil y las organizaciones que los apoyan asistirán a la sesión 159 de la Comisión Inter-americana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) para defender su derecho sobre su territorio ancestral, también llamado Tekohá.

(8)The Guarani. Brazil's Guarani suffer at the hands of violent ranchers. For the Guarani, land is the origin of all life. But violent invasions by ranchers have devastated their territory and nearly all of their land has been stolen.

Other comments:“We are fighting for our land, and we are being killed, one by one. They want to get rid of us all together… We are in a state of despair, but we will not give up.” Eliseu Lopes, a Guarani leader.

Meta information

Contributor:ENVJustice Project (G.N)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2836



Marinalva Manoel, 27-year-old

Source: Combate Racismo Ambiental

Fin do Genocídio


Em Brasília, estudantes indígenas da UnB marcharam na Esplanada dos Ministérios em repúdio à morte do Guarani-Kaiowá Simião Vilhalva