The Awa people of Maranhao state, in northeastern Brazil, have turned in desperation to the international community to help protect their territory according to activists at Survival International (SI), a human rights organization based in London, England.
For generations the Awa, who SI asserts is the “Earth’s most threatened tribe,” have lived in the Amazonian forest area of Maranhao, but in the last decade they have been persecuted and pushed out of their territory by illegal logging operations and other settlers, according to a variety of sources.
Human rights advocates in Brazil and throughout the world have been trying to help the Awa in their efforts, and last year a Brazilian judge delivered some good news.
In December of 2011, Federal Judge Jirair Aram Meguerian ruled that the Brazilian government had to evict the illegal loggers and other parties that had invaded the part of the Amazonian rainforest where the Awa have lived. Judge Meguerian’s decision was published in March of 2012, and gave the government one year to evict the loggers and others.
However, by late March of this year the government had not taken steps to remove the invading parties and, according to SI, “not a single person has yet been evicted.”
On March 26th SI posted videos of Awa people calling on Brazil’s Minister of Justice to take action and help them protect their land.
In the video, posted on SI’s website, an Awá man said, “I am angry, very angry… The loggers come here and chop down the trees … The Minister of Justice in Brasília can help us here, now. He must help us now!”
Amiri, another Awá man, told SI, “For a long time, we have been asking for the invaders to be evicted. It has to happen now. They must be removed. The loggers have already destroyed many areas; we refuse to lose all our land.”
Sarah Shenker, SI’s Brazil campaigner, stated that as of the second week of April the Brazilian government had not “publicly responded since the March 26 news” but that there was hope for some official support.
“Public Prosecutors are following the Awá case and may support the Awá in their push to have the invaders removed, especially now that the deadline has come and gone with no apparent results,” Shenker asserted. “But the Awá need more help; they need as much public support as possible, and pressure on Brazil's Ministry of Justice to act fast to protect the Awá's land, before it is too late.”
SI Director Stephen Corry added, “It is a scandal that the Awá have been driven to such desperation. As they hear the chainsaws day and night in their forest, it seems to them that the judge’s ruling and the government’s promises have been forgotten. The Awá need action, now.”