A century after thousands of mainly Anglophone Afro-Caribbean workers moved into the Brazilian Amazon to build the Madeira-Mamoré 'rubber boom' railway, a new wave of Caribbean migrants is now arriving to join Brazil's estimated 90 million African descendant population. Brazil has become an increasingly attractive destination for economic migrants from Haiti, who find it difficult to get entry visas for their first choice countries – the US and France. Since the 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake, around 4,000 Haitians have gone to Brazil in search of economic opportunity; with some 85 per cent finding employment.

In January 2012, the Brazilian authorities announced a one-off plan to grant residence visas to those Haitians already in the country while tightening border controls.

Murder of Guarani leader

Large infrastructure projects in Brazil such as dam and highway construction have played a major role in promoting expansion into the Amazon since the 1970s, bringing deforestation and land-grabbing conflicts, including the invasion of ancestral lands and massacres of indigenous people.

According to Amnesty International, in early November 2011 Nísio Gomes, a religious leader and rights defender of the Guarani indigenous group in the south-western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, was made to lie on the ground by some 40 masked gunmen and then executed in front of his son and community members. His body was taken and three children were abducted. It is the latest incident in the decades-long land dispute between Guarani and local ranchers who – with impunity – employ hired gunmen in violent attacks against indigenous people attempting to reclaim ancestral lands. The spiritual leader and up to 70 other Guarani had recently returned to their traditional lands after being evicted by cattle ranchers some 30 years ago.

Based on federal government estimates, there are over 40,000 Guarani in Brazil. This makes them the largest indigenous group in the country. However in 2011, their existence continued to be threatened by the extensive patchwork of cattle ranching, and soya and sugar cane bio-fuel plantations illegally established on their traditional lands.

Uncontacted community

In the Amazon state of Maranhão, Awá, one of the last nomadic hunter-gathering groups left in the Amazon, now face extinction according to Survival International. In the 1980s a railway was built through Awá territory to extract massive iron ore deposits; loggers, settlers and cattle ranchers soon followed. Survival International estimates there are currently only about 350 surviving members, more than 100 of whom have had no contact with the outside world.

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