“Another brutal crime against the Guajajara people,” tweeted Sonia Guajajara, a leader from the same tribe and reserve who is executive coordinator of Brazilian indigenous association ABIP. “Everyone who doesn’t like us feels allowed to kill because they know impunity rules. It’s time to say ENOUGH.”
Murders of indigenous people soared 23% in 2018, according to CIMI figures, and land invasions have risen since far-right president Jair Bolsonaro took office in January. He has compared indigenous people living on reserves to “prehistoric men” and said their lands should be developed.
In a statement, the state government of Maranhão said preliminary investigations indicated “the crime was not motivated by hate, land disputes or deforestation in indigenous reserves”. Brazil’s indigenous agency Funai said it was following the case.
Erisvan lived in the Araribóia indigenous reserve, which has been decimated by loggers. A group of Guajajara forest guardians expelled loggers from the reserve but have faced threats and violent attacks. In November, the guardian Paulo Paulino Guajajara was killed by loggers in an ambush and another, Laércio Guajajara, was shot and injured.
Loggers in illegal vehicles operate openly around Amarante yet police rarely intervene. “There is a lot of racism against indigenous in Amarante,” said Gilderlan Rodrigues, CIMI’s Maranhão coordinator. The group said Erisvan’s family refuted comments by local police linking the killings to the drug trade.
Last Saturday, two Guajajara leaders – Firmino Silvino Guajajara and Raimundo Bernice Guajajara – were shot and killed in a drive-by shooting on a highway in the nearby Cana Brava indigenous reserve in the same state. Two others were injured.