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Latest update : 2009-05-02

Brazilian police on Friday set about evicting non-indigenous farmers from a vast tract of rainforest in northern Brazil after a court ruled the area be set aside for native tribes.

AFP - Brazilian police on Friday entered a vast tract of the Amazon rainforest set aside as an indigenous reserve to evict non-indigenous farmers ordered to leave the area.
The Supreme Court ruled in March that non-indigenous residents had until April 30 to leave the vast Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous reserve in northern Brazil.
Most outsiders left the region by the deadline, but the owners of several large rice farms and families who worked on them were still in the area, according to the National Foundation for the Indian.
Early Friday some 300 Federal Police agents entered the vast area to evict the holdouts, the government news wire Agencia Brasil reported.
At 17,000 square kilometers (6,560 square miles), the forested territory in northern Brazil, along the border with Venezuela and Guyana, is equal to half the size of Belgium.
The farmers had earlier vowed to fight any attempt to force them out, and several stockpiled arms and threatened to blow up bridges and spike roads if police moved in.
Police have set up five operational bases in the reserve to enforce the court ruling, according to Agencia Brasil.
In mid-March Brazil's Supreme Court upheld the integrity of the vast reserve, issuing a final ruling on a 30-year dispute over the rights of native groups to lands in South America's largest nation.
Some 19,000 members of the indigenous Macuxi, Wapichana, Ingariko, Taurepang and Patamona tribes call the territory home.
The dispute has raged since the 1970s between the native groups seeking to protect the forest, their ancestral lands and their traditional way of life, and white agricultural and industrial interests seeking to exploit the land for farming and mining.

Date created : 2009-05-02