PORTO SEGURO, Brazil (AP) -- Celebrations marking Brazil's 500th anniversary
were tempered by violence Saturday as police clashed with thousands of Indians
and their supporters protesting what they called Portugal's "invasion."
Police used clubs and tear gas to break up the protests, and there were
reports that 15 Indians were injured. More than 140 people were detained and
could be charged with disturbing public order, said Gustavo Rios, the local
public security chief.
"We came to march in peace," said Nailton Pataxo, a demonstration leader.
the government that is meeting us with violence. This is the true face of Brazil,
500 years later."
Huge traffic jams formed as thousands of police with metal detectors blocked
access roads and searched people trying to reach the seaside resort of Porto
Seguro, where Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral first set foot on April
22, 1500. He is believed to be the first European to land in the South American
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who stayed on a nearby island overnight
for security reasons, cut short his official program because of the protests. At a
lunch with Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, Cardoso tried to appease the
"In Brazil today we have a sharp awareness of the social wounds that are
our heritage of these 500 years," he said.
Sampaio also spoke at the lunch.
"There is no longer room for resentments over the historical past, which
moments of greatness and misery, freedom and subjugation," he said. "We are all
responsible for the time we were given to live. We inherited the past, and it is our
duty to understand it, to transform the present and not reject it with belated
About 330,000 Indians survive today in Brazil, compared with as many as
million when Cabral landed.
Mounted police fired tear gas to break up about 2,000 Indians from all
Brazil who marched from the nearby Coroa Vermelha reservation to protest "the
invasion." In feather headdresses and red-and-black body paint, many Indians
carried spears and banners in Portuguese reading: "500 years of resistance" and
"Who said Brazil was discovered?"
Several hundred protesters from black rights, student and labor groups
join the Indians but were gassed and pushed back by police. Some were clubbed.
"They won't allow any demonstration that disfigures the celebration," said
Raimundo Bujao of the black rights group Quilombo Niger Okan. "This is Brazil
for all the world to see."
Roberio Nunes of the federal district attorney's office said the police
"a clear violation of human rights. People have the right to protest."
About 35 miles west of Porto Seguro, thousands of landless workers camped
a roadside, saying they would not join the marches because of the police
blockade and would protest there.
Cardoso was to attend a folkloric dance and greet a fleet of wooden ships,
including replicas of Portuguese caravels that set sail from Portugal on March 9
to retrace Cabral's route. He was also scheduled to inaugurate the Discovery
Museum near the reservation and attend an orchestra concert in the evening, but
the foreign ministry said he would probably cancel because of the protests.
Across Brazil, many cities staged massive open-air concerts. In Salvador,
capital of Bahia state, tenor Luciano Pavarotti was to perform with local stars,
while Brazilian pop star Roberto Carlos commanded the show in Brasilia.
In Portugal, flags from both countries were hoisted to mark the date but
otherwise there were few celebrations marking Cabral's arrival in Brazil. Leading
daily newspapers ran front-page photos of Brazilian Indians, and radio and
television stations broadcast long features on the conflict.
Brazilian culture is important in Portugal, where soap operas, soccer players,
musicians and food from the South American nation are wildly popular.
Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.