Brazilian environmental and rights organizations announced Wednesday that Indigenous leader Jorginho Guajajara was murdered in the State of Maranhao in the Brazilian Amazon. They suspect Jorginho was killed by illegal loggers who operate in the territory of the Guajajara people, renown for their work as Guardians of the Amazon.
The leader’s body was found last Sunday next to a stream that surrounded the Indigenous Reserve Arariboia. His body bore marks of violence to his neck and chest. Survival International, an NGO that advocates for the rights of Indigenous peoples around the globe, announced the news via Twitter and published a piece detailing the Guajajara’s struggle with “an aggressive, powerful and armed logging mafia with close ties to local and national politicians.”
Sonia Guajajara, Indigenous leader and vice-presidential candidate for the Socialism and Liberty Party confirmed Jorginho’s murder was part of “a sequence of deaths and murders in the logging dispute.”
According to data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), 70 percent of the Maranhao state has been deforested. In Arariboia alone, almost 25 hectares have been affected.
The Guardians of the Amazon, or Guardioes da Floresta, is a group of men of the Guajajara people who decided to fight against illegal loggers themselves in the face of government inaction. They patrol their territory in search of outside threats, and when they find loggers or hunters, they destroy their equipment and detain the perpetrators to deliver them to the police later.
The group also aims to protect the uncontacted Awa Guaja people who live in the region.
Due to their activities to protect their lives and their habitat, they have been targeted by illegal loggers. Jorginho is one of around 80 members of his tribe who have been murdered for defending nature.
Regional authorities have made no statements related to the murder so far.
Survival International stressed that “brutal cuts in government funding to its Indigenous affairs department FUNAI and tribal land protection mean the dangers are now even greater, as the area is not properly monitored or defended by the authorities. ”