32 year old Kwaxipuhu Ka’apor was a member of the indigenous Ka’apor people. He lived on the Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Land (TI) (North of Maranhão) and was found dead early in the evening of 3 July 2020. His body had been dumped by the side of a branch road, and was found by other members of the community. He had been beaten to death with an iron bar in what appears to have been a planned ambush.
The brutal crime took place in the municipality of Centro do Guilherme, about 300 kilometers from São Luís, Maranhão. The Ka’apor people believe that the killing is connected to the struggle for land and the violence of large landowners and their hired thugs.
The land of indigenous peoples in the region has come increasingly under pressure from the spread of monoculture farming to produce rice and more recently soya. Their way of life is also threatened by the activities of illegal loggers who target rare and valuable species of trees. 80% of the natural forest of Maranhão has already been destroyed.
Indigenous land is also being used by drug traffickers to move drugs into the region. The Ka’apor people representative body the “Associação Ka’apor Ta hury do Rio Gurupi”, has raised these issues with the authorities on many occasions. Officials have made many promises to protect the indigenous peoples but nothing ever happens.
The Ka’apor have stated that Kwaxipuhu Ka’apor was killed in retaliation for an action by the Ka’a Usak Há Ta (guardians of the forest) to prevent the presence of invaders. The guardians destroyed an illegal marijuana plantation maintained by non-indigenous people from outside the territory. Kwaxipuhu was a member of the Ka’a Usak Ha Ta and may have been targeted because of this work.