The Indian settlement is adjacent to the legendary stadium that is being refurbished to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics and the final match of the 2014 World Cup. Officials say it must be demolished as part of the work.
The public defender’s office said Monday that the government cannot evict the group without a court order.
On Saturday, police in riot gear surrounded the settlement where indigenous people have been squatters for years on the site of an abandoned Indian museum.
The tense standoff lasted about 12 hours before the police dispersed late Saturday. They’ve not returned.
“The Indian Museum near the Maracana will be demolished,” Cabral said then. “It’s being demanded by FIFA and the World Cup Organizing Committee. Long live democracy, but the building has no historical value. We’re going to tear it down.”
However, a letter from FIFA’s office in Brazil to the federal public defender’s office published in the newspaper Jornal do Brazil said that the soccer authority “never requested the demolition of the old Indian Museum in Rio de Janeiro.”
The indigenous have been resisting their possible eviction for months, operating with little or no information from authorities about what to expect, or what alternatives are available to them, said their leader Carlos Tukano.
“I know they are going to come in, and our proposal is to remain firm, but without moral or physical aggression,” he said. “We cannot fight them with bows and arrows; they are armed.”
Most of the approximately 30 Indians who live there and about 200 sympathizers packaged the compound Saturday to discuss how to peacefully deal with a possible police action. Several men, masking their faces with shirts, climbed high into the upper floors of the tumble-down building and surveyed the scene with professional bows and arrows.
The squatters believe they have history and the law on their side.
The crumbling mansion with soaring ceilings that housed the old museum was donated by a wealthy Brazilian to the government in 1847 to serve as a center for the study of indigenous traditions.
After the museum closed more than three decades ago, Indians of various ethnicities started using it as a safe place to stay when they came to Rio to pursue an education, sell trinkets in the streets or get medical treatment.
“They would come here without money, without knowing anyone, and sleep in the streets,” Tukano explained. He himself is from a village deep in the Amazon. “We made this our space.”
It's such a Western approach to a problem. Sweep the indigenous troublemakers under the rug. Progress before people. Pave paradise and put up a parking lot.
This is one of our continuing postings on how Amazon Indians interact with modern society. Most Indians, like indigenous people everywhere, are dealing with schools, jobs, television, computers, and so forth. Any narrative that portrays them as primitive savages living in jungle huts is probably false or misleading.
For more on Amazon Indians, see Amazon Massacre in The Mentalist and Firth Video Generates Protest E-Mails.