Brazilian Indian chief killed on contested reservation

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (AP) 12-07

An Indian chief was shot to death in northeastern Brazil on a reservation where settlers are contending with locals for land and lumber, the government reported.

Joaquim Guajajara, who like many Indians used his tribal name as a surname, was found dead in the Arariboia reservation, which is home to 8,000 Guajajara Indians in Maranhao state, the official news agency Agencia Brasil said.

Guajajara, 65, was lying by the side of a highway that cuts through the 1 million acre reservation, the agency said.

Federal police were called in to investigate, but the national Indian bureau, known as Funai, said the killing was likely linked to a dispute with settlers over land and natural resources, especially lumber.

Since early November, some 200 agents have patrolled the area to combat illegal logging, arson and clandestine marijuana plantations on Indian land, the agency said. Funai said 64 Guajajara have been killed in the past 16 years in illegal labor operations or in confrontations with settlers.

Jose Pianco, the head of Funai in the nearby city of Imperatriz, said agents seized and burned 10,000 marijuana plants and closed 12 clandestine lumber mills.

“The situation is difficult and will get tenser after this death,” he told Agencia Brasil.