Monday, October 19, 2009

VID 00018-20091015-1312.3GP

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Xukuru - Dancing the Tore (a ritual process with a variety of purposes and meanings). See Blog for more information.

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Gaining Ground on Legal Assistance

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Good news - we're gaining some ground on finding US lawyers who work in international indigenous human rights that are willing to support the Xukuru’s struggle to gain their human rights. The lawyers will assist in the current appeals to reverse the sentence of 10 years and 4 months levied against Cacique Marcos Xukuru , and various other sentences given to 31 Xukuru tribal members and village leaders. This is exciting news, brought to me by Joseph Mandala (my research assistant). Thanks to Joseph's hard work, we hope to have several US lawyers working with international human rights documents to identify specific areas where the Brazilian legal system is non-compliant as signatories. Will keep you posted on the ways in which such documents can be very useful, and hopefully, successful.

Here are links to the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

* The UN Declaration was adopted by a majority of 143 states in favor, 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine).

* The Declaration establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being and rights of the world's indigenous peoples. The Declaration addresses both individual and collective rights; cultural rights and identity; rights to education, health, employment, language, and others. It outlaws discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them. It also ensures their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own priorities in economic, social and cultural development. The Declaration explicitly encourages harmonious and cooperative relations between States and indigenous peoples.

*English version of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

*This is an interesting read - it's a web page from the Australian Human Rights Commission that offers a "Q&A" on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As one of the four countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, & the US) opposed to the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, this page offers a discussion on the issues that continue to produce miss-information about indigenous peoples and their rights.


• Which human rights abuses experienced by the Xukuru can you identify in the General Assembly’s Resolutions? In the 46 Articles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

• How would you discuss the issues and present them is such a way as to demonstrate how the Brazilian Nation-State has abused the basic human rights of the Xukuru as outlined in this document?

These are two of the questions we must answer in ways that convince the Regional Federal Tribunal of the 5th region (Pernambuco, Brazil) which is reviewing current appeals to reverse the Federal Courts’ decision to sentence Cacique Marcos Xukuru to 10 years and 4 months in prison (see discussions in earlier blogs about the attempted assassination of Cacique Marcos Xukuru and other abuses). Your suggestions could add to our success.

Good Web Page

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This web page is in Portuguese. For those who read Portuguese, several petitions/letters in support of the Xukuru are posted here.


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Jacinaiara - Young Xukuru Child - 4 years old

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Sunday, October 11, 2009


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The Fish Dinner

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Fish booth in Olinda

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Friday, October 9, 2009


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Olinad at night

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Rua da Pilla - street where I live in Olinda

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My House on Rua da Pallia

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The View From the Latifundista

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Much has been written about Brazil's colonial practices and treatments of indigenous peoples. One article, written in the 1980s by Suzanne Williams, (“ Land Rights and the Manipulation of Identity: Official Indian Policy in Brazil,” published in the Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 15, No. 1 May, 1983, pp. 137-161) is particularly interesting, since the discussion she presents about land rights and indigenous identity are still relevant today. I recommend that those interested in an overview of the history of Brazil's relations and treatment of indigenous peoples read this article. The following incident reflects Williams' historical review on the treatment of Brazil's indigenous peoples within the nation-state.

Interestingly, after spending time with Cacique Marcos and other members of the Xukuru, I had the opportunity to have an in-depth talk with a disenfranchised latifundiário (used-to-be owner of a large fazenda /farm). My opportunity came when my computer suddenly stopped working, and I was put in touch with Mr. X via my current landlady.

While working on my computer over the next two days, I had the opportunity to listen to the perspective of an X-latifundiário (X-farmer who inherited large tracts of land that had been in his family since the era of slavery). Mr. X offered his opinions after I asked him what he thought about the situation of the Xukuru in Peisquiera. I was somewhat taken back at first by his strong and determined perspectives of the Xukuru, but I also welcomed his perspectives. It was like watching an edited and polished film, with a well thought out script, completely logical and defensible. Here's a summary of what I heard.

Mr. X confided in me that the situation with the Xukuru was very difficult, and very sad. He told me his family land holdings went all the way back to the great latifúndio period, and that the land they owned was extensive. His land, lost to the indigenous Xukuru through government land re-demarcation due to extensive activism through a process of retornando (retaking of land by indigenous peoples who camp on and refuse to leave lands they identify as traditional tribal territories), was productive and well cared for. Cattle were raised for beef and milk production, and when the Xukuru emerged in the early 1980s, declaring themselves to be an indigenous tribe, the problems began to mount up for him. He said that Xicão Xukuru, the assassinated Xukuru chief and father of Cacique Marcos Xukuru, was not an Indian. He had green eyes, like a snake, and he was dark skinned like most of the men from the sertão (dry back-country). According to Mr. X and his fellow land owners (and politicians), it was Xicão Xukuru who fabricated the Xukuru tribe, and hired a well known lawyer to legally create their indigenous status. Once the tribe was designated as real and living by the Brazilian government, then the processes of land re-demarcation could begin. Xicão Xukuru, according to Mr. X was a handsome man with a lot of charisma, but he was not an Indian.
According to Mr. X, the Xukuru, like all indigenous peoples, are corrupt and live in groups that are constantly engaged in in-fighting amongst themselves. I was told to not trust any of them, and to be very careful, because it was dangerous business being in close contact with them. Here's why – according to Mr. X, the Xukuru were responsible for creating the riot that occurred in 2003 when the attempted assassination of Cacique Marcos occurred. In fact, the attempt on Marcos' life was not by a hired assassin, but by one of his own people, and the attempted murder was based on a long-standing dispute between relatives. Indeed, according to Mr. X, the Xukuru people are divided about their leader. According to Mr. X, the majority of the Xukuru do not have confidence in their Cacique. Again, accdording to Mr. X, Marcos has the protection of hired thugs (Military Police) who accompany him everywhere, and he flaunts his assumed power whenever he comes into town. Apparently, the Xukuru were instigated, by Marcos, to create the riot in the city of Pesquiera after the "false" assassination attempt on his life, braking windows, burning buildings, and trashing a large section of the city. According to Mr. X, it was Marcos who was responsible for this violence. In many ways, Mr. X’s account is very similar to the Federal Police report about the events occurring on the day and evening of the attempted assassination of Cacique Marcos Xukuru. Many NGOs and human rights organizations are lobbying for the district courts to re-investigate his case and listen to witnesses that were not permitted to testify during his trial (see petition on this web page to stop the legal criminalization of the Xukuru).

According to Mr. X, many claims for land re-demarcation by Indians are false, and the lands are left undeveloped and unproductive when they have legal custody of their land. Hey, he said, the Xukuru didn't even know they were Indians until Xicã0 Xukuru told them they were! Many indigenous tribes in Brazil speak about having to re-learn their indigenousness since they were forbidden for centuries from practicing their traditional cultures.

What is interesting about Mr. X’s account, is that his account of events that night are reflected in his views of indigenous peoples in general. His perspectives are informed by his social position and class inheritance. His story follows the well researched history of the nation-states position on indigenous peoples in Brazil, that is, the perspective of wealthy land-owners and their political affiliations. The article mentioned above by Suzanne Williams perfectly unfolds, layer by layer, the constructed social reality of Mr. X.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


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Link to Sign Petition:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009 - Fieldwork, What's it Like?

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What is Fieldwork? What does it mean, and how is it done?
As anthropology students know, ethnographic methods courses require them to read an assortment of texts and articles that provide a glimpse into the everyday reality of fieldwork. Students are exposed to everything from postmodern texts on the decolonization of anthropology, the social constructions that define perceived realities, texts that provide a historical glance at pre-post modern perspectives, and the impossibility of "universal reliability" of scientific methods to produce universal truths about something as nebulous, but real as culture.

While such readings help prepare students to think about the concept of doing fieldwork, they don't prepare you for the realization that as a researcher, YOU ARE THE RESEARCH INSTRUMENT. Your ability to question what, why, and how you experience and interpret the observed world IS your microscope. Without the ability to understanding the mutability of observed phenomenon as "a view," conditioned by senses that have been well trained by cultural perspectives, theoretical and methodological tools will do little to bring into focus the processes by which individuals and collectives produce cultures. As students of anthropology, you have all read Clifford Geertz (Interpretations of Culture, Renato Rosaldo (Culture and Truth), Writing Culture (James Clifford and George Marcus), and many others – all of them discuss the issues facing post-modern ethnography and the problematic of doing ethnographic methods. Below are some interesting web sites about doing ethnography: (video on doing fieldwork)

Ethnographic Methods – A tool? A Skill? A Science?

In truth, ethnographic methods do not reflect precise methods, but rather prepare the anthropologist for the complexities of observing and comprehending the human experience. Not only does ethnography teach us how to be participants in the daily lives of those we study, but to also how to examine ourselves as observers. This is not easy work, and often it requires that the researcher extend beyond their limits of comfort, both physically and emotionally.

For me, ethnography requires patience, with myself and my perceived abilities. It also requires me to be persistent and determined, even when I realize that the experiences of everyday life are extraordinarily complex, and are probably beyond any researchers ability to completely capture. I have learned that if I'm to understand anything while in the field, it will be because I have learned how to questions what I perceive. For example, behaviors that appear odd or uncomfortable to me as an observer are opportunities to shift my perspectives and ask myself why I am experiencing my observations in this way.

The experience of participating in the field also pushes the anthropologist to be involved in practicing what they observe. Noting behaviors (both physical and social) through observation and participation also allows for theorizing a range of possible explanations for individual and collective behaviors, and the methods of grounded theory can assist in developing fresh theoretical perspectives. Essentially, grounded theory requires the researcher to begin with a set of specific questions, which are studied and observed through the use of participant observation and the use of extensive memos and use of coding skills. When data becomes saturated, that is when you begin to receive the same kind of information again and again, it is time to ask a new question, and the research continues in this manner – from the ground up. Eventually, the researchers potentially can develop fresh theoretical perspectives about their subjects.

While American ethnographers in the early 20th century assumed culture to be tied intrinsically to ethnicity and location (for example: all Japanese are…, or all French are…), binding all who lived in its presence to share and express themselves as people from "a culture" - current ethnography understands that while "culture" exists, it is individuals and their agency that create, pass-on, and modify culture, and in doing so, are not simply passive recipients of an organic set of cultural forces, but are active social agents in constructing the cultures in which they live. This means that culture is both local and global, and that there are cultures within cultures. Hence, ethnographers can study any group or organization, such as the culture of a university system, the culture of North Dakota agro-business, or any other area of interest.

Ethnography is the "tool" used by the ethnographer, and the method most commonly used is participant observation, which requires the ethnographer to become immersed in the culture being studied, and to be an active participant in the culture while recording extensive field notes.

Questions: Help me answer these questions
How does the anthropologist become a participant observer? Can she or he just arrive one day in the field, say with indigenous people in Brazil, and begin living and recording daily activities? How do I gain access to the group of people I want to study, and how do I introduce myself to them? What do I tell them about the research I want to do? How do they understand my research? Is it important for the anthropologist to understand how the people they are studying understand his/her work? Why? Are there ethics involved in my work while doing ethnography as an anthropologist? If so, what are these ethics, and how do I make sure I am following them? Are ethics universal and the same across all cultures? If not, what does this mean about the ways in which current anthropology constructs its ethical foundations? (Here is the web page for the American Anthropological Association's Statement on Ethics: And, probably the most important of all - how do I decide what and who is important to study?

What I would like for students to do is to try answering some of these questions on your own, before I tell you my understandings and experiences of fieldworking. Don't be afraid to take one of the questions above and write down what you think/feel about the questions. For example, how would you answer the question "how could I gain access (get into, get introduced, get to know) the people I want to study? Or, how would you know what you wanted to study? What are your reasons for wanting to study a particular group and/or situations and why is it important to know what your reasons are?

I'll write more tomorrow on this very important topic. It is an important topic because ethnography is a qualitative research process that is not rooted in seeking universal truths - that is "factual reality." If the ethnographer is not after "facts" what is she/he after?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Joseph and I - On the Plane to Brazil

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October 3, 2009 - More Abuse Against the Guarani Kaiowa Apyka'y in Mato Grosso do Sul - Cacique Marcos in Brazillia

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Cacique Marcos Xukuru has gone to Brasilia to advocate for indigenous peoples rights in Brazil. He will be returning in the next few days. I will be leaving for Pesqueira on October 11th to stay with the Cacique and participate in the various meetings that he attends with local indigenous leaders in the aldeias (village communities) on Xukuru land.

In the mean time, there are some serious human rights abuses occurring to the Guarani Kaiowa Apyka´y in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. I've posted information about the recent attacks against the Guarani Kaiowa in my last blog post. Below, I am providing some additional information about international financial involvements in Brazil, and the lack of the Brazilian government’s foresight in planning projects, particularly those that are linked to the extraction of natural resources that have led to environmental destruction and continued human rights abuses against indigenous people.

Finally, I would like readers to think about ways to solve issues of global environmental destruction that are rooted in international financial relations, particularly with the World Bank, the IMF, Free Trade, and Neoliberal Economics. As the need to extract, process, and produce goods for the world’s populations continues to grow, so does the need for new solutions that will ensure the sustainability of the planet’s ecosystems and the continued existence of cultural human diversity.

Finding Solutions? Questions for Readers

Here is an article posted on the web page "Survival International" ( that provides an example of how social activism can act as a powerful tool and incentive to change status-quo loan procedures at the World Bank. Social activism only works with large social movements kick into action. The question is, how do we get ourselves and others to take action - to become involved and participate in stopping abusive practices (environmental and human) AND contribute to finding solutions? Do we change the way we educate our children? Do we make sure that university classes are engaged and involved in real life issues and that information learned is applied in practice? What do you think? Below are several web pages discussing the economic, social, and cultural (all three are inter-connected) practices that generate destructive, non-sustainable processes that are leading to the potential collapse of global environments.

Wep Pages - Environmental Destruction & Impact on Indigenous Peoples State Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon Political infighting in Brazil threatens the Amazon rainforest

June 01, 2009 Brazil to boost spending on infrastructure to counter economic crisis

February 05, 2009 Brazil OKs $4 billion dam in the Amazon rainforest

November 13, 2008 South American development plan could destroy the Amazon

October 2, 2007 Amazon tribe blocks major Brazilian highway

June 8, 2007 Brazil splits environmental agency to fast-track development projects
Rhett A. Butler,

April 25, 2007 Brazil to flood Amazon rainforest for hydroelectric power
By Reese Ewing Reuters

Indios acusam empresa de segurança por ataque

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Please log onto the web pages below and read about the very recent attack against the Guarani Kaiowá in Brazil. Amnesty International has posted an Urgent Action regarding this case. I've posted it in Portuguese below the web pages: Portuguese version of the events of September 18, 2009 - Guarani Kaiowá community of Apyka'y in Brazil An English version of the events of September 18, 2009 - Guarani Kaiowá community of Apyka'y in Brazil

See attached file: 25-09-2009_AU 254-09_Brasil_pt.doc)

AU: 254/09 Índice: AMR 19/017/09 Brasil Data: 25 de setembro de 2009

Cerca de dez homens armados atacaram a comunidade Guarani Kaiowa Apyka´y, próxima de Dourados, estado do Mato Grosso do Sul. Tiros foram disparados de forma indiscriminada contra o acampamento da comunidade, uma cabana foi incendiada e membros da comunidade foram física e verbalmente ameaçados. O grupo indígena, que está acampado ao lado da rodovia desde que foram expulsos de suas terras ancestrais em abril de 2009, teme que mais atos violentos ocorram.

A comunidade de 15 famílias Apyka´y foi atacada à uma hora da madrugada de 18 de setembro. Um índio de 62 anos de idade foi atingido na perna; uma mulher ficou ferida nas costas após ser agredida e um cachorro foi morto a tiros. Os homens atearam fogo a um dos barracos, queimando-o totalmente e destruindo os pertences da família. Durante o ataque, um dos homens armados disse aos membros da comunidade que se eles não abandonassem o acampamento, haveria mortes e que não era a polícia federal, mas a “polícia da companhia” que controlava a área.

Os promotores federais que abriram um inquérito sobre o incidente estão investigando a possibilidade de o ataque ter sido realizado pelos guardas de segurança que trabalham para a companhia Gaspem Segurança – uma empresa de segurança frequentemente utilizada pelos fazendeiros da região para a guarda das propriedades. Seguranças empregados pela empresa foram denunciados pela morte do líder indígena Dorvalino Rocha em dezembro de 2005, e foram acusados pelos promotores federais do assassinato de Xurete Lopes em janeiro de 2007.

A comunidade Guarani Kaiowa Apyka´y tentou várias vezes reocupar suas terras ancestrais desde que foram expulsos pelos fazendeiros na década de 1990. Sua mais recente tentativa ocorreu em junho de 2008, mas eles foram obrigados a voltar para a beira da estrada, que passa por suas terras ancestrais, em abril de 2009, após os proprietários conseguirem uma ordem de expulsão. Suas terras, que agora são utilizadas para o cultivo de cana-de-açúcar, foram selecionadas para identificação (o primeiro passo na demarcação de terras indígenas) em um processo iniciado pelas autoridades federais em 2007, mas repetidamente bloqueado pelo governo estadual e pelo lobby rural local. A comunidade permanece acampada às margens da rodovia no lado oposto ao de um posto de segurança da Gaspem, que tem alegado que se estabeleceu no local para proteger as plantações de cana-de-açúcar e para desencorajar novas ocupações.

POR FAVOR, ESCREVA IMEDIATAMENTE, em português ou em seu próprio idioma:
Pedindo às autoridades que garantam a segurança da comunidade e seu acesso a comida, água e proteção adequadas enquanto permanecerem acampados na rodovia;
Solicitando que as autoridades iniciem uma ampla investigação acerca das operações da Gaspem Segurança – uma empresa com um longo histórico relacionado à violação de direitos humanos contra os povos indígenas;
Instando as autoridades a cumprirem plenamente suas obrigações relativas à Convenção 169 da Organização Internacional do Trabalho, à Declaração das Nações Unidas sobre os Direitos dos Povos Indígenas e à Constituição Brasileira, finalizando a demarcação das terras.

Ministro da Justiça
Exmo. Sr. Tarso Genro
Esplanada dos Ministérios,
Bloco "T"
70712-902 - Brasília/DF Brasil
Fax: + 55 61 3322 6817
+ 55 61 3224 3398
Tratamento: Exmo. Sr. Ministro

Secretário Nacional de Direitos Humanos
Secretaria Especial de Direitos Humanos
Exmo. Secretário Especial
Sr. Paulo de Tarso Vannuchi
Esplanada dos Ministérios - Bloco "T" - 4º andar, 70064-900 - Brasília/DF Brasil
Fax: + 55 61 3226 7980
Tratamento: Exmo. Sr. Secretário

Conselho Indigenista Missionário - CIMI (ONG local)
CIMI Regional Mato Grosso do Sul
Av. Afonso Pena,
1557 Sala 208 Bl. B
79002-070 Campo Grande/MS Brasil

Envie cópias também para as representações diplomáticas acreditadas em seu país. Por favor, verifique com a sessão da AI em seu país se for enviá-los após 6 de novembro de 2009


O estado do Mato Grosso do Sul abriga algumas das menores, mais pobres e mais densas áreas de população indígena do Brasil: bolsões de pobreza cercados por grandes plantações de soja e cana-de-açúcar e fazendas de criação de animais, onde a vida é extremamente difícil devido às péssimas condições de saúde e às pobres condições de vida. Cerca de 60.000 índios Guarani Kaiowa vivem em condições precárias – a ruptura social tem conduzido a elevadas taxas de violência, suicídio e má nutrição. Frustrados com a lentidão no processo de demarcação de terras, os Guarani Kaiowa começaram a reocupar suas terras ancestrais, mas têm sido submetidos a intimidações e expulsões violentas.

Em novembro de 2007, o Ministro da Justiça, a Promotoria Federal, a FUNAI e 23 líderes indígenas assinaram um acordo (Termo de Ajustamento de Conduta, TAC), que compromete a FUNAI a identificar 36 diferentes áreas de terras ancestrais dos índios Guarani Kaiowa – incluindo as terras da comunidade Apyka´y – até 2010, para futura demarcação. O acordo foi veemente criticado pelo governo estadual e pelo lobby dos fazendeiros. Após a assinatura do TAC, o governador do estado, André Puccinello, ameaçou não honrar o acordo e o vice-governador, Jerson Domingos, jogou mais lenha na fogueira ao mencionar a inevitabilidade de um “banho de sangue” a que este processo conduziria, com o acirramento do conflito entre a polícia, os índios e os proprietários de terra. Os fazendeiros locais vêm se opondo ao processo, exagerando, para a imprensa, a quantidade de terras que poderiam ser identificadas como indígenas e constantemente tentam bloquear o processo judicialmente. Atualmente existem mais de 80 recursos tramitando no Tribunal Regional Federal envolvendo terras indígenas no Mato Grosso do Sul.

Por conta do fracasso em dar uma solução às reivindicações de terra, muitas comunidades de Guarani Kaiowa têm partido para a reocupação das terras. Com isso, tem ocorrido uma série de expulsões, deixando os grupos vivendo à beira de rodovias, em frente às áreas que reivindicam. Vivendo em precárias condições, sem acesso a suas colheitas ou a água potável, eles estão expostos a ameaças dos guardas de segurança contratados para evitar a reocupação das terras. Empresas de segurança irregulares, muitas das quais agindo efetivamente como milícias ilegais a serviço dos proprietários de terra ou da agroindústria, têm se envolvido em diversos abusos de direitos humanos nas áreas rurais do Brasil e permanecem como uma séria ameaça não só aos povos indígenas, mas também aos trabalhadores rurais que lutam pelo direito à terra.

Tanto a Declaração das Nações Unidas sobre os Direitos dos Povos Indígenas, ratificada pelo Brasil em 2007, quanto a Convenção 169 da Organização Mundial do Trabalho, da qual o Brasil é signatário, garantem aos povos indígenas direitos sobre suas terras ancestrais e exigem que os Estados estabeleçam mecanismos para garantir que estes direitos sejam adjudicados e reconhecidos. A Constituição Brasileira também garante aos povos indígenas brasileiros o direito a suas terras e a responsabilidade da União em demarcá-las.

AU: 254/09 Índice: AMR 19/017/09 Data de Emissão: 25 de setembro de 2009

WDAZ TV Xukuru Research Synopsis