The Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae is a small Indian tribe in Brazil — the tribe only has
about 1,800 people left. In 1991, the Brazilian government granted the tribe
rights to over 133,000 acres of land in Brazil but after court challenges by
new settlers, only 5,000 acres were left to the tribe. By all accounts the Pataxo
Ha-Ha-Hae and the settlers are constantly involved in violent conflicts — since
1982 fifty-one Indians have died in land-related conflicts.
So imagine the surprise of the Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae leaders when they learned
that popular politician and doctor Roland Lavigne had performed sterilization
operations on 58 Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae members in the months before Brazil’s 1994
election. The tribal leaders call the action nothing less than genocide.
As tribe member Alcides Francisco Filho told the Associated Press, “The real
issue here is land. Lavigne is allied with the big ranchers who are occupying
Such claims seem a bit odd since most of the women sterilized not only agreed
to it voluntarily but in turn voted for Lavigne in the election — in fact what
Lavigne does seem guilty of is vote buying. The free sterilization was used
as an incentive to entice the women.
There are certainly problems in some nations with unethical sterilization and
abortion practices (Peru and China come to mind), but this Brazil case doesn’t
seem like one of them.
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