Reuters International

By Chris Arsenault

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An indigenous activist was shot dead in southwestern Brazil and at least six others seriously wounded when their camp was attacked by armed farmers, a government agency said.

Clodiode Rodrigues de Souza, 26, a member of the Guarani-Kaiowa indigenous group was killed and five other adults and a child were hospitalized in Mato Grosso do Sul state on Tuesday, the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), said.

The campaigners had set up a camp in a push to have their ancestral land claims to be formally recognised by the government when they were attacked by about 70 farmers riding motorcycles, trucks and a tractor, witnesses said.

Amateur video footage of the confrontation shot from a distance shows activists running for cover as gunshots ring out and fires burn on the green fields of Brazil's agricultural heartland.

"The Guarani-Kaiowa have been fighting for decades for the recognition of their traditionally occupied territories," FUNAI said in a statement on Wednesday, adding the Ministry of Justice and national police were investigating the killing.

Last month, FUNAI recognised the disputed area as indigenous land but the Guarani-Kaiowa have not received a formal title to the territory about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the city of Caarapo near the border with Paraguay, local media reported.

Some farmers and plantation owners in the state known for its soy, sugar and cattle production are unhappy with the decision to demarcate land for indigenous people.

Amnesty International said on Tuesday a small number of Guarani Kaiowa families received a judicial order late last week to leave the contested land in Mato Grosso do Sul.

The judge's eviction order followed complaints from farmers who say they are the rightful owners of the land even though the territory had been promised to the indigenous group, according to Amnesty.

"Dialogue and mutual respect are needed to build a social pact to solve the problems faced by indigenous people and farmers in the southern cone of Matto Grosso do Sul," FUNAI said.

Brazil, South America's most populous nation, is one of the world's most dangerous countries for land rights activists with at least 50 killings last year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said in April.

(Reporting By Chris Arsenault; Editing by Astrid Zweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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