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  • Brazil's Indigenous Wajapi people fled their villages in fear of gold miners.

    Brazil's Indigenous Wajapi people fled their villages in fear of gold miners. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 July 2019

Brazil's Wajapi Indigenous community is blaming the rhetoric and policies of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro for the attacks on them. 

A remote Indigenous reserve in the Brazilian Amazon was invaded by gold miners Saturday after they murdered  Emyra Wajapi, a community leader whose body was found Wednesday. 

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Around 50 miners invaded the 600,000-hectare Mariri village as the Wajapi Indigenous community fled in fear to the bigger village of Aramira. The village chief Viseni Wajapi said they were attacked by the miners. “They killed a Wajapi leader. They are at the center of our land, armed with heavy guards.”

"Our warriors are there," continued the chief. “They are checking everywhere, how many people are there. We know there are more than 10, many have already fled.”

Viseni said the miners were assaulting Wajapi women and children and they have contacted Fundacao Nacional do Indio (FUNAI), the organization to protect the Indigenous people of Brazil. The authorities have not yet taken any action to protect the Wajapis and their land from the invaders. 

“The garimpeiros (miners) invaded the Indigenous village and are there until today. They are heavily armed, they have machine guns. That is why we are asking for help from the federal police,” said Kureni Wajapi, 26, a member of the tribe. 

Randolfe Rodrigues, a senator from Amapa state, first spoke about the invasion Saturday after he received audio messages pleading for police and army’s help from a local leader. 

For Kureni Wajapi, the invasion is a result of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-Indigenous attitude. “It is because he, the president, is threatening the Indigenous peoples of Brazil,” he said.

“The Jair Bolsonaro government is encouraging this conflict, encouraging garimpeiros to enter. Their hands are dirty,” Senator Rodrigues said.

The Wajapi tribe was almost wiped out in the 1970s due to disease after their land was invaded by gold miners. Last week’s invasion was the first one after the ’70s. Senator Rodrigues said the invasion was possible due to Bolsonaro’s repeated promise to allow mining in protected lands. 

“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,” Bolsonaro said Saturday.

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