Prospectors use intimidation to try and scare natives off their mineral rich land
Brazil Natives Say Illegal Miners Murdered Leader
Native Brazilians accused a gang of gold prospectors and miners of invading their land and murdering a tribal leader in a remote part of Brazil's Amazon rainforest.
Brazil has a long history of illegal miners using violence to attempt to vacate mineral-rich areas that are legally protected and preserved for the country's native population.
According to member's of the Waiãpi Tribe in Brazil's northern Amapá state, Emyra Waiãpi, the tribal leader of a small and remote village, was murdered last Monday. Due to the seclusion of the town, it took a day for the body to be discovered and several more until the investigation started in earnest.
Tribal members said that armed prospectors invaded several villages over the weekend firing their weapons at the natives. Brazil's Federal Police and BOPE responded to investigate the claims and help secure the area.
Brazil's National Native's Rights Foundation, the Funai, said that a group of 10 to 15 men took over a village in the west of Amampá. The men expelled the residents and have been using it as a base to launch raids intending to intimidate natives. The Funai alleges that this is the same group that is responsible for the death of Emyra.
The foundation said that as of Sunday they have still been unable to reach the scene of the crime due to it only being accessible by an extended car and boat trip followed by a hike. They have advised the local natives to avoid contact with the armed outsiders to prevent any escalation in violence.
This recent invasion of native land follows close behind declarations by President Jair Bolsonaro that he intends to legalize prospecting and mineral exploitation on indigenous lands. The President has long been a critique of the native reservations. On Saturday Bolsonaro said that he wants his son, Eduardo, to become Brazil's ambassador to the United States so that he can attract investment towards mineral exploration on native land.
Any move to open up native reservations for exploitation would need the approval of congress.
Brazil's native population is legally entitled to areas designated as reservations. In recent years this unexploited territory has been invaded by farmers and resource prospectors aiming to take advantage of the unspoiled lands. Often the outsiders will resort to violent intimidation in an attempt to scare off the natives like in a 2017 attack in Maranhão in which farmers shot a man and cut off his hands.
Many of the organizations meant to protect the interests of natives have seen budget cuts under the Bolsonaro government.
Authorities said they are investigating the Waiãpi Tribe's claims but that it is too early to assign blame to prospectors or any specific group.