The vegetation surrounding the homes of some of the 50 families living in the Rio Preto Quilombola Territory, in the city of Lagoa do Tocantins (TO), was set on fire. Days later, last Saturday (23), four gunshots coming from a car scared the community. In the early hours of Monday (25), the straw covering a residence was also set on fire. Thanks to a dog’s bark, residents managed to put out the fire before it spread.
The attacks on the quilombola community intensified after, on September 8, judge Aline Iglesias of the Tocantins Court of Justice (TJ-SP) revoked the repossession of the families. The denied request had been made by Cristiano Rodrigues de Sousa – a politician who tried to be elected deputy mayor of the city by the MDB in 2020 – and by the company Lagoa Dourada Participações e Serviços S/C Ltda.
“They are setting fires close to the houses so that the fire spreads and burns the houses. So the community has to migrate from one side to the other to contain the fires”, describes quilombola Antônia*, resident of Rio Preto.
“The community is very vulnerable at the moment, both psychologically and in terms of food,” describes Antônia, explaining that residents are afraid to go to the fields to work on the land. “If you don’t plant, you don’t eat. So this is the cry for help”, she warns.
Maryellen Crisóstomo, from the State Coordination of Quilombola Communities of Tocantins (Coeqto), highlights that “without security to move around and unable to take care of the plantations, families are besieged within their own territory”.
The judge also determined that the authors of both cases “refrain from the practice of possessory robbery” – loss of possession due to violence – “directly or through their representatives”, under penalty of a daily fine of R$1 thousand.
Brasil de Fato spoke with Cristiano de Sousa, who informed that he will not comment at the moment. He also asked for a position for the company Lagoa Dourada and, until the end of the article, he had no response. If either of the two wants to take a position, the text will be updated.
Of 44 certified quilombos, 6 advance in title
According to Crisóstomo, “the Rio Preto territory has been suffering a wave of violence that has worsened in recent days, but it all starts with land grabbing in the area”.
:: State bill allocates vacant land in Paraná to quilombos ::
In 2018, the Court had given a favorable opinion to the MDB politician and the company that claims the area that, according to its residents, has been traditionally occupied for around a century. The expulsion of quilombolas was temporarily avoided by the suspension of evictions ordered by the Federal Supreme Court (STF) while the covid-19 pandemic was at its peak.
With the resumption of the two processes, the judge revoked the eviction based on statements from the Public Defender’s Office, the Federal Public Ministry and the State Secretariat for Original and Traditional Peoples of the Government of Tocantins.
Still awaiting title, the territory has had a certificate of recognition from the Palmares Cultural Foundation as a traditional quilombola community since 2014.
In Tocantins, Rio Preto is just one of dozens of quilombos that, despite recognition from the Foundation, are vulnerable to the lack of definitive regularization.
“In the state, we currently have 44 quilombola communities certified by the Palmares Cultural Foundation. Others are awaiting release. But of these 44, only six have the degree process advanced to some degree”, explains Maryellen. “Quilombola peoples are not part of Tocantins’ development plan and, therefore, violence remains for us”, she summarizes.
* The name has been changed to preserve the source.
Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho