Dozens of gold miners have invaded a remote indigenous reserve in the Brazilian Amazon where a local leader was stabbed to death and have taken over a village after the community fled in fear, local politicians and indigenous leaders said. The authorities said police were on their way to investigate.
Illegal gold mining is at epidemic proportions in the Amazon and the heavily polluting activities of garimpeiros – as miners are called – devastate forests and poison rivers with mercury. About 50 garimpeiros were reported to have invaded the 600,000-hectare Waiãpi indigenous reserve in the state of Amapá on Saturday.
The men were spotted days after the murder of Emyra Waiãpi, a community leader, whose body was found near the village of Mariry early on Wednesday.
Indigenous people evacuated Mariry and fled to the bigger village of Aramirã – where shots were fired on Saturday. Indigenous leaders and local politicians have called for urgent police help, fearing a bloodbath.
“The garimpeiros invaded the indigenous village and are there until today. They are heavily armed, they have machine guns. That is why we asking for help from the federal police,” said Kureni Waiãpi, 26, a member of the tribe who lives in the nearest town of Pedra Branca do Amapari, two hours away and 189km from Amapá state capital Macapá. “If nothing is done they will start to fight.”
“We have a very tense situation,” said Beth Pelaes, mayor of Pedra Branca do Amapari, who said the tribe are very traditional and allow only authorised visitors.
The crisis was revealed on Saturday by Randolfe Rodrigues, a senator for Amapá state, who received desperate audio messages pleading for police and army help from Jawaruwa Waiãpi, a local councillor and leader. Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso was among those who shared the tribe’s appeal for help on Saturday.
“I ask the Brazilian authorities for help, in the name of the dignity of Brazil in the world, hear this cry,” Veloso said in a video recorded in Mexico City, where he is on tour.
Kureni Waiãpi said Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro had encouraged invasions like this. “It is because he, the president, is threatening the indigenous peoples of Brazil,” he said. [Continue reading…]