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Mato Grosso do Sul | Indians Targeted by “Private Militia”

Source:  Rede Brasil Atual.

Federal prosecutor demands closure of security firm accused of acting as a “private militia” against indigenous peoples.

At least 8 attacks and two deaths tied to Gaspem. Witnesses say the company received R$ 30,000 for each violent evacuation.

São Paulo – The federal prosecutor (MPF) in Mato Grosso do Sul has filed suit to dissolve Gaspem Segurança and cancel its registration. In the suit, the MPF calls the company a “private militia” and calls for an injunction leading to the temporary suspension of its activities as well as the setting aside of R$ 480,000 for collective damages.

The company is known for its modus operandi in the case of properties subject to title disputes and is accused of conducting attacks on indigenous villages, resulting in dozens of injurites and the death of two indigenous leaders.

Witness statements say that the company received R$ 30,000 for each violent evacuation and that GASPEM guards were hired to intimidate and terrorize indigenous communities.

“This is an organized group that disseminates violence against the Guarani-Kaiowá people of the Southern Cone of Mato Grosso do Sul state, hiring brutal personnel called “vigilantes,” most of them without any qualifications for the job but all of them carrying heavy weapons and ammunition with which they commit offenses against the rule of law and public security,” according to the action filed by the MPF.

Last Saturday (August 24), the Aty Guasu tribal council informed the MPF of a threat made by employees of the security firm against the Apyka’i  people of Curral do Arame  — whose huts were destroyed in a fire last week … According to the complaint, a  group of vigilantes prevented the Indians from taking water from a nearby source and theatened to kill them if they returned.

In 2009, the same community had its huts destroyed by an arson fire. GASPEM’s role in the episode is still under investigation, as is the company’s involvement in attacks on the Lagoa Rica, Laranjeira Ñanderu, Ñaderu Morangatu, Sombrerito, Pyelito Kuê and Guaiviry communities–- all of them located near areas claimed as traditional tribal lands.

GASPEM employees are also accused of the deaths of Dorvalino Rocha and Nízio Gomes. The two cases are underway in the Federal Court of Ponta Porã.

Cases of violence involving GASPEM go back to 2005 in Mato Grosso do Sul.

The company is registered in Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul since 1997 and has posted YouTube-hosted publicity material on a short-lived blog in 2011.

Note the subliminal flashes of the death-dealing skull, often used as a symbol of the E.M. — the death squad.

A year or so ago, a program was devised in which the Federal Police would take charge of training and certifying security personnel. Or so I remember reading.

In an October 2011 column, Paula Miraglia calls for more regulation of the private security sector.

Last week, two episodes revealed the serious problems associated with private security services in Brazil. In one case, a security company in São Paulo had its arsenal stolen. The estimated number of weapons now in  the possession of criminals is 120.

In the second case, a bank guard  in São Bernardo do Campo fired four shorts during an argument inside the bank agency.

Private security and vigilantism are not exactly new, and can be found in different forms throughout our history. Currently, Brazil is among the countries that spends the most of private security. It is an extremely lucrative market and indications are that it will continue to grow.

This state of affairs is a response to a scenario that combines the very real growth in criminality with the resulting sense of insecurity. The State is perceived as incapable of provided security.

Part of the problem resides in the fact that quality of government oversight has not kept up with the growth of this type of business, which means that these private companies are not strictly regulated.

What is more, private security services are not submitted to the same mechanisms of control imposed on state police. When the oversight of police is a delicate matter and fraught with difficulties, this undesirable scenario tends to perpetuate itself.

As a result, there are no guarantees, for example, that private security  personnel are adequately trained or that the firearms used are legal and in compliance with Brazilian law.

But this is not a challenge unique to Brazil. This week, the United Nations held a conference in Vienna to debate the private security sector. The objective of the conference is to unite national governments and specialists in the area to produce a UN document that will serve as a framework for international regulations and as an example for national legislation.

In the case of Brazil, improving the regulation of this sector seems like a fundamental step to take.