Around 50 gold miners have invaded a remote indigenous reserve in the Brazilian Amazon, taking over a village after a local leader was stabbed to death.
Dozens of gold miners – known as ‘garimpeiros’ – were sighted mere days after the murder of community leader Emyra Waiãpi, whose body was found close to the the village of Mariry on Wednesday, July 24.
Local politicians and indigenous leaders reported gold miners invaded on Saturday, July 27, causing the traditional community to flee from the 600,000-hectare Waiãpi indigenous reserve in fear. They headed over to the larger village of Aramirã, where shots were fired on the same day.
As reported by The Guardian, both Indigenous leaders and local politicians are now fearful of a potential bloodbath, calling upon police officers for urgent assistance.
Tribe member Kureni Waiãpi, 26 – who lives in the nearby town of Pedra Branca do Amapari – told The Guardian:
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, If nothing is done they will start to fight.
“Leaders of the Wajãpi indigenous community made urgent pleas to the federal government on Saturday, warning that the conflict between the miners and members of their community who live in remote villages in the northern state of Amapá risked turning into a blood bath.” pic.twitter.com/BxaddNkcUr
— Jeff Nascimento (@jnascim) July 28, 2019
On Saturday July 27, Amapá state senator Randolfe Rodrigues raised the alarm about this crisis after receiving requests for immediate police and army assistance from local councillor and leader Jawaruwa Waiãpi.
Taking to Twitter, Rodrigues said:
URGENT. The Waijãpi in Amapá are at risk. Armed prospectors invaded the lands and killed indigenous leaders. The PF and FUNAI need to act IMMEDIATELY on pain of a major tragedy to happen.
He later tweeted:
I want to thank the director general of the Federal Police, Ranucci Júnior, for attending to our requests and relocating a PF contingent to the land of the Waijãpis, invaded by prospectors at dawn in Amapá. The situation is very serious! We are attentive to the defence of indigenous peoples.
Quero agradecer ao diretor geral da Polícia Federal, Ranucci Júnior, por atender nossas solicitações e deslocar um contingente da PF à terra dos Waijãpis, invadida por garimpeiros nesta madrugada, no Amapá.A situação é bastante grave! Estamos atentos na defesa dos povos indígenas pic.twitter.com/b143zBbac4
— Randolfe Rodrigues (@randolfeap) July 27, 2019
On the very same day the indigenous community fled from their village, President Jair Bolsonaro publicly defended the exploitation of minerals in indigenous areas, as reported by O Globo.
Speaking at the graduation of 26th Parachute Infantry Battalion skydiving recruits in the West Zone of Rio, the divisive president made the following remarks:
I’m looking for the ‘first world’ to explore these areas in partnership and add value. That’s the reason for my approximation with the United States. That’s why I want a person of trust in the embassy in the USA.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly criticised the indigenous communities of Brazil, and has also taken aim at those trying to preserve the Amazon.
“‘They are armed with rifles and other weapons,’ Jawaruwa Waiãpi, a leader of the community, said in a voice message sent to one of the state’s senators, referring to the miners. ‘We are in danger. You need to send the army to stop them.’” pic.twitter.com/yvRQEvaMOE
— Jeff Nascimento (@jnascim) July 28, 2019
As reported by The Guardian, a spokesperson from Brazil’s indigenous agency FUNAI said Federal and Amapá police were heading to the area where the crisis is unfolding:
For now there are no records of conflict, although a death has been confirmed, but no details of the circumstances. The place is difficult to access.
The state government of Amapá has reportedly sent an elite police troop to accompany officers who are heading over to the remote area.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.