Miners Kill Indigenous Leader in Brazil During Invasion of Protected Land

Several dozen heavily armed miners dressed in military fatigues invaded an indigenous village in remote northern Brazil this week and fatally stabbed at least one of the community's leaders, officials said Saturday.

The killing comes as miners and loggers are making increasingly bold and defiant incursions into protected areas, including indigenous territories, with the explicit encouragement of Brazil's far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. Officials warned the conflict could escalate in the coming hours.

Mr. Bolsonaro has said that indigenous communities are in control of vast territories that should be opened up to industries to make them profitable.

Land invasions in indigenous territories are on the rise across Brazil, where indigenous leaders say they regularly come under threat by miners, loggers and farmers. Yet assassinations of indigenous leaders are rare.

Leaders of the Wajãpi indigenous community made urgent pleas to the federal government on Saturday, warning that the conflict between the miners and members of their community who live in remote villages in the northern state of Amapá risked turning into a blood bath.

“They are armed with rifles and other weapons,” Jawaruwa Waiãpi, a leader of the community, said in a voice message sent to one of the state's senators, referring to the miners. “We are in danger. You need to send the army to stop them.”

It was not immediately clear when the killing took place.

Rodolfe Rodrigues, the senator, said Saturday night that residents of the village that had been invaded had fled. Citing local accounts, he said there was concern in the area that men from the tribe would return to the village to try to reclaim it.

“There is significant risk that the conflict will escalate in the coming hours,” Mr. Rodrigues said in a phone interview. “The Indians are going to retaliate.”

Mr. Rodrigues, who belongs to an opposition party, said Mr. Bolsonaro's views on indigenous territories and the rights of native communities had put the descendants of Brazil's original inhabitants in mortal danger.

“The president is responsible for this death,” he said.

A representative for the president declined to comment on Saturday night.

Mr. Rodrigues identified the slain indigenous leader as Emyra Wajãpi. He said the miners tossed his body in a river after stabbing him to death.

On Saturday night, an elite police force was en route to the area. The National Indian Foundation, a federal agency that was created to protect indigenous rights, said Saturday that its personnel in the area were trying to ascertain the facts surrounding the killing.

The Wajãpi, who have lived for centuries in the area that straddles northern Brazil and French Guiana, lived in isolation until the 1970s, when the Brazilian government built a road that made their areas accessible to miners and other outsiders.

Their territory was designated a protected area in 1996 as part of the process established by Brazil's 1988 Constitution. That charter, which was adopted after a 21-year period of military rule, set out to make amends for the brutality indigenous communities had endured since Europeans arrived on the continent in the 1400s.

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