This week the Brazilian government is investigating reports of genocide deep within the Amazon rainforest. Overheard in a bar on the Peruvian and Colombian border, a group of gold miners were heard bragging about their part in the murder of up to 10 indigenous tribe members. If not for a horrified fellow bar-goer who recorded the conversation between these miners, the outside world may never have learned of this massacre. According to the miners, the indigenous tribe members were part of a community which had never previously encountered the outside world. The miners came across the indigenous tribe’s people collecting eggs upon a river bank. The group of around 10 apparently contained women and children. It was here that the miners apparently murdered the entire group, before “cutting up their bodies and throwing them into the river to stop them floating.” The miners justified their actions by stating that upon encountering uncontacted communities it was “kill or be killed,” according to The Week. However, little remorse seems to have been exhibited by the miners, who brought a wooden paddle taken from the indigenous group to the bar with them. If these reports prove accurate, this would stand as one of the largest attacks on uncontacted indigenous persons in Brazil for decades.
The Brazilian government has launched an official investigation into these attacks. As of this week, the federal police have stated that the “investigation is still ongoing to ascertain the provenance of the information,” and thus remains in an early stage. If the reports are confirmed as legitimate, answers will be demanded by the several indigenous rights groups active in Brazil. One group which lobbies for the protection of indigenous communities, Survival, stated that Brazilian President Michel Temer and his government will “bear a heavy responsibility for this genocidal attack.” This remark was made in connection to the depletion of funding to the government agency that protects uncontacted indigenous tribes in recent years. According to protection groups, through the reduction in necessary funding the government has left tribes “defenceless against invaders like gold miners, ranchers and loggers.” Communications officer for Survival Carla de Lello Lorenzi furthered this, stating that the government is doing less to protect indigenous groups in the Amazon, while also openly supporting those who would exploit the territory of these tribes. Mining groups are apparently known to have brought violence regularly to indigenous communities, as well as being “responsible for threats, child prostitution and killings.” These barbarous activities have been reported in regions of the Amazon where mining and logging is technically illegal.
Undeniably the Brazilian authorities will have to re-think their recent policy decisions with regard to indigenous groups. The agency responsible for Brazil’s indigenous affairs, Funai, has had its resources slashed in recent years. The agency is responsible for protecting remote tribes and their territory from encounters with the outside world, due to risk of potential disease epidemics and financial exploitation by miners or loggers. However, according to The Week magazine, 3 out of 5 Funai bases used to protect indigenous tribes in the Javari valley have been closed due to government cuts. Consequentially tribes in this region have become vulnerable to unwanted outside contact. The solutions to this seem clear. Using the massacre seen in recent weeks as clear evidence, the Brazilian government needs to redirect funds to agencies protecting indigenous tribes. With greater funding, agencies will be able to protect secluded tribes and the rainforest surrounding their communities with personnel on the ground. Secondly, controls and existing legislation needs to be enforced on miners, loggers and ranching companies which are illegally acting in protected regions. Finally, those responsible for the atrocities which reportedly occurred in recent weeks need to be brought to justice. Through effective use of the criminal justice system and the enforcement of existing legislation, the protection of indigenous communities and their ways of life in the Brazilian Amazon can be maintained.
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