Drug trafficking related to tourism

The Pataxó live in a region known as the Discovery Coast in the far south of Bahia.

With the construction of highway BR-101, inaugurated in 1973, and the resulting creation of a growing tourism market, the Pataxó found that the use of their traditional lands was no longer feasible. They began to work as laborers in the new economy taking hold in the region. Starting in 1970, Indigenous people were encouraged to develop their production of handicrafts, which became an attractive option for their economic independence.

The Coroa Vermelha Indigenous Land, in the municipalities of Santa Cruz Cabrália and Porto Seguro, is demarcated, but is in the process of having its boundaries expanded. The community lives off tourism, however, this created several problems for the Indigenous people.  Among them is tourism-related drug trafficking, which has increased since 2007. In 13 years, from 2007 to 2020, 46 Indigenous people were murdered.

The Coroa Vermelha Indigenous Land has 1,493.9941 hectares, and the portion dedicated for residential use is very small. The village lies near the city and can be considered an urban village. This allows residents to work in the city and sell handicrafts. For this reason, many Indigenous people migrated here from other villages in search of work. This began to overpopulate the community and has caused pressure in the fight to retake lands. Since 2006, during the boundary revision process, new villages have sprouted up in retaken areas (Nova Coroa and Pororoca).  These areas were part of the Indigenous Land identification and delimitation studies, but were not included in the demarcation.

Illegal drug trafficking is more prevalent in the retaken areas, in Nova Coroa and Thihi kamaiwrá, and in the previously demarcated area known as Carajá (named after the cacique at the time of demarcation). The first trafficking deaths occurred in 2007 when a curfew was imposed on the community. Since then, a criminal organization began to operate in the region. It was led by Indigenous people within the community, but was linked to outside people and entities.

In 2005, the community created the Indigenous guard, and thefts of tourists declined from six per day to two per month. However, the guard stopped operating due to rising trafficking.  Since the Indigenous Lands are federal areas, the Military Police refused to act, which contributed greatly to the increased violence. The community cacique received 12 death threats for his efforts, along with other leaders, to combat the trafficking.

Rutian do Rosário Santos

Jovem liderança indígena do povo Pataxó (Bahia), graduanda em Direito pela Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBA). Possui graduação em Ciências Econômicas pela UFBA (2014) e especialização em Direitos Humanos e Contemporaneidade pela mesma universidade (2020). É pesquisadora colaboradora do Programa de Educação Tutorial (PET) Comunidades Indígenas UFBA. Atua como colaboradora do projeto Cunhataí Ikhã (Meninas em Luta) da Associação Nacional de Ação Indigenista (Anaí). É diretora financeira do Movimento Unido dos Povos e Organizações Indígenas da Bahia (Mupoiba).