Reports of Massacre in Brazilian Amazon Highlight Danger of Government Animosity Toward Indigenous Peoples

Amazon Watch

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Late last week, Brazilian news sources began reporting on a massacre committed in August by wildcat gold miners of at least ten members of a group of "uncontacted" indigenous people living deep in the Brazilian Amazon. The reports emerged after the miners apparently bragged about the murders in a bar near the Javari Valley indigenous reserve in Amazonas State near the border with Colombia and Peru, where the massacre allegedly occurred.

Late Monday, the Amazonas State Public Prosecutor's office issued a statement saying that it can not officially confirm that the massacre occurred, though investigations are ongoing.

The activities of wildcat gold miners – whose activities are not permitted in Javari Valley – and the unauthorized entrance of loggers, hunters, and drug smugglers have been reported to authorities multiple times by local inhabitants, indigenous organizations, church entities, and civil society groups. Some of these entities have reported receiving threats in recent weeks.

This latest reported massacre is not the only one currently under investigation; so is the reported murder of about twenty indigenous people from the isolated Warikama Djapar tribe last May in the same region. The Javari Valley reserve is home to the largest number of uncontacted indigenous tribes in the world, yet only ten federal government officials monitor security in the 85,000 sq km region since President Michel Temer cut funding for the monitoring program.

Amazon Watch made the following statement:

"This latest report of a massacre in Javari Valley is yet another tragic sign of the deadly effects of the regressive policies promoted by President Michel Temer. The Temer administration's refusal to advance the titling of indigenous territories, to steadily tear down environmental licensing processes, to eliminate forest and indigenous territory protections, and to slash budgets of the Indigenous Agency (FUNAI) and environmental departments, all implicate him and his government in the unacceptable acts of violence being reported.

The Temer administration therefore bears direct responsibility for this reported act of genocidal violence and others like occurring more and more often in the Amazon. The administration must thoroughly investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of any murders of indigenous peoples and to cease its assault on indigenous rights and environmental protections. This is especially true in the case of uncontacted peoples, who are acutely vulnerable to outside contact and aggression and whose culture is critical to preserve. A lack of decisive action will only assure ongoing and worsening violence."

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