Rape Accusation Against Noted Chief Dismays Indians, Environmentalists With PM-Earth Summit,
Jun. 09, 1992
Rape Accusation Against Noted Chief Dismays Indians, Environmentalists With PM-Earth Summit, Bjt
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ A magazine report alleging that a prominent Indian environmentalist raped, tortured and tried to kill an 18-year-old girl has shocked his fellow Indians and crusading colleagues.
The charges against Chief Paulinho Payakan of the Kayapo also have many angry at the U.N. Earth Summit, which Payakan is expected to attend.
''The accusation is painful,'' Yanomami chief David Kopenawa said Monday after the article was published by Veja, Brazil's largest newsweekly.
''This crime strikes hard at us, the indigenous people. It is meant to destroy the force of Payakan,'' he said.
Rep. Fabio Feldmann, the leading environmentalist in Brazil's congress, said the report seemed intended to blacken the image of the Global Forum, a meeting of ecologists and Indians taking place alongside the U.N. Earth Summit.
Meanwhile, Payakan's whereabouts were unknown. He failed to appear at a weekend conference of Indians.
Police Chief Jose Barbosa in Redencao, a town near the Kayapo reservation in Para state in northern Brazil, said he had asked the Para district attorney for permission to arrest Payakan and his wife.
For many Brazilians, the news came as a shock.
Payakan seemed a model leader. He crusaded against destruction of the rain forest, rallied opposition to plans to flood Indian homelands and was honored by the United Nations.
He presided over the first meeting of Forest Peoples in 1989. He gave speeches in Europe, and negotiated the sale of native herbs and essences to the Body Shop, a chain of cosmetics stores.
His red-painted face even appeared on the cover of Parade magazine, which called him ''a man who would save the world.''
His latest magazine cover was in sharp contrast.
''Payakan, the chief and symbol of ecological purity, rapes and tortures a teen-ager,'' blared Veja. The cover showed him in a yellow-feathered headress, over the words ''The Savage.''
Veja reported that Silvia Leticia da Luz Ferreira, a high-school student who tutored the chief's children, told police Payakan raped her in a car after a barbecue at his house May 31 in Redencao. She went to the police on June 2.
According to police, Ferreira said Payakan's wife, Irekran, held her down. Payakan tried to strangle her, Ferreira said, but a servant heard her cries and saved her.
Some Indians have grumbled that fame went to Payakan's head. He was resented for reportedly getting rich, and keeping a plane donated to the Kayapos for his own use.
Kayapo Chief Kube-i, a long-time companion of Payakan, said the tribe could not help him if the charges prove true.
''Payakan cannot set back all the Kayapos,'' he said. ''We are fighting for our forests and our land.''