The crisis of Brazil’s indigenous group continues after 308 people died in 2023, the report says


Written by Anthony Poudel

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian government efforts to expel illegal gold miners from the Yanomami indigenous reserve in the northern Amazon have faltered as outsiders increasingly invade the vast region, Yanomami leaders said on Friday.

The Hutukara Yanomami Association issued a report on the year since President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva declared a humanitarian emergency and sent the army and police to evict the miners. She said the situation remains bleak for the Yanomami nation of 30,000 people who live in the rainforest on the border with Venezuela, where their community suffers from malnutrition, disease and violence.

The report said that 308 Yanomami died in 2023, including 129 deaths from infectious, parasitic and respiratory diseases. She added that at least seven indigenous people died from gunshot wounds in clashes with informal miners.

“The authorities must do more. I ask them to pursue and imprison the leaders of illegal mining who have never been caught,” said Davi Kopenawa, Yanomami chief and shaman.

“They should be put in prison because the miners leave and come back,” he said in a video released with the report. “Their machines destroy everything, destroy the forest, and poison the river and the fish on which we live.” “Enough is enough.”

Illegal mining and deforestation have slowed, but the continued presence of armed miners makes it impossible for intimidated health workers to care for Yanomami who have not been properly vaccinated, the report said.

The presence of security forces in the first half of last year reduced the number of raiders by 80%, according to the report, but after the army scaled back operations, miners soon began returning.

An EPA special forces unit told Reuters in December that it was left to hunt down the miners alone without military support.

In a meeting with environmental and indigenous protection agencies and the commander of the armed forces earlier this month, Lula decided to renew the task force process with the military’s involvement once again to restore the state’s existence.

Federal police have stepped up investigations to track down financial backers and suppliers of raw materials such as mercury, after 13 such operations in 2023 resulted in the seizure of goods worth 590 million reais ($120 million), mostly gold, said Humberto Freire, the police’s environment and ecology director. Amazon management told Reuters.

($1 = 4.9240 riyals)

(Reporting by Anthony Poodle in Brasilia; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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