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News > Brazil

Brazil's Bolsonaro Says No Evidence Indigenous Leader Murdered

  • Wajapi people, in Amapa, Brazil.

    Wajapi people, in Amapa, Brazil. | Photo: Rede de Cooperacao Amazonica

Published 30 July 2019

Human rights defenders argue that the Brazilian president's hate speech encourages attacks on indigenous peoples.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro Monday said there was no evidence that the death of Emyra Wajapi, a 68-year-old Amazonian indigenous chief, was caused by illegal miners who invaded traditional Indigenous lands.


Gold Miners Kill Indigenous Leader in Brazilian Amazon

"There is no solid evidence as of now that such Indian was murdered," Bolsonaro said and defended mining activities in Indigenous lands, a practice banned by a law which can only be modified by the Congress.

“Brazil lives from commodities. In a short time, the farmer will lose his patience and... sell his land. What will people live on? What do we have here in addition to commodities? Do people not remember this? If the [commodities] business fails, it will be a disaster. Brazil is over."

Kleber Karipuna, a leader of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brasilian Amazon (Coiab), which is part of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil(Apib), said that President Bolsonaro has a discourse of racist speeches against Indigenous peoples.

The death of the chief is very negative because it worsens the conflicts that already existed in several Indigenous areas," Karipuna said and added that the murder comes with the "government's backing, the country's highest authority. This is very delicate and problematic."

A week ago, the Wajapi Indigenous people denounced that illegal miners had invaded their traditional lands. On July 22, their leader, Emyra, was killed. Later, military police admitted that his body had traces of perforations and cuts and will be subjected to forensic investigation.

The Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) blames the Brazilian government's hate speech and aggressions for the murder of Chief Emyra Wajapi committed by armed miners. In December, Bolsonaro's attacks on Cuba had already left the Wajapi villages without doctors.

The Wajapi Village Council said the murder of its chief has left the communities in a state of constant tension and vigilance.

“We remain very concerned about the invaders who are occupying the northern part of our lands. Families are very afraid to go out to the fields or hunt. Some communities have left their homes to join families from other villages to feel safer."

On Monday afternoon, Prosecutor Rodolfo Lopes also stated that there was no evidence of any recent invasion against Wajapi lands. “There is no evidence of gold miners... in such area, there is no record of conflicts. No traces of footprints, bonfire marks or leftovers left.”

Nevertheless, hundreds of social organizations rejected the way in which the Brazilian authorities are addressing this murder case. One of them, the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), which is part of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), stated that urgent action is required to prevent further violence.

"The hate and aggression speech by President Bolsonaro and other representatives of his government serve as fuel and stimulate invasion, territorial damage and violent actions against Indigenous peoples."

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