Prominent churchmen in Brazil are countering a widespread appeal fOr aggressive reprisals against the Amazon Indians, who are violently resisting roadbuilding projects on their lands.
Fr Jose Vicente Cesar, head of the Indian Missionary Council, blamed poor communication with the tribesmen for the violence of the Waimiri-Atroari Indians.
He acknowledged efforts by Government officials to contact the Indians and explain their projects. "But they lack trained people to follow up," he explained and many did not speak Indian dialects.
Since the middle of last year Waimiri Indians have killed a dozen officials, including Indian expert Gilberto Pinto Figueredo of the National Indian Foundation. A settler fell victim to a neighbouring tribe.
The Apostolic Delegate to Brazil, Archbishop Carmine Rocco, urged that Indians be given an opportunity to enter Western civilization but not at the entrance fee of their rights and traditions. "Integration should not be tantamount to absorbing or regimenting these peoples," he said,
Archbishop Rocco had just returned from a New Year tour of Indian lands. He said Mass for the Bororos and Xavantes, brought them gifts from Pope Paul, including three silver chalices, and visited their homes and fields.
During ceremonies of welcome Archbishop Rocco's face was painted red by the Indians, who gave him symbols of authority. The National Indian Foundation has recalled its agents from the danger zones but will not abandon its pacification policy, a high official said.
Leading Brazilians had suggested that aggressive means, including tear gas and fireaims, be used to intimidate the warlike Indians. Eigueredo was killed by the Waimiri chief, Maroaga, who hadearlier agreed to a compromise on Government projects, including the construction of the ManausCaracari road in the northernmost Amazon territory.
Numbering about 1,500 the Waimiri-Atroari are one of 20 tribes living in the Amazon• basin and the rain forest in Eastern Brazil. Their total population has been estimated at between 70,000 and 100,000. While missionaries have successfully contacted those at the borderline of civilization, it remained for the larger resources of the Indian Foundation to penetrate the hinterland,
White settlers, attracted by roadbuilding, have been accused of invading Indian lands and killing the inhabitants. Those opposed to intimidation tactics now say the Indians have long been provoked to violence.