BRASILIA – Heavily armed gold miners have invaded a remote indigenous reserve in northern Brazil and stabbed to death one of its leaders, officials say.
Residents of the village in Amapá state fled in fear and there were concerns violent clashes could erupt if they tried to reclaim the gold-rich land. Police have arrived in the area.
Tensions in the Amazon region are on the rise as President Jair Bolsonaro, who is against the reserves, vows to open some of them to mining.
Mr Bolsonaro says the indigenous territories are too big given the number of people living there, and critics accuse him of encouraging illegal mining and invasions of reserves.
The group of 10 to 15 heavily armed miners overran the village Yvytotõ of the Wajãpi community and “tensions were high”, according to Brazil’s indigenous rights agency, Funai.
The residents fled to the Mariry village, some 40 minutes away by foot, and have been warned not to try to come into any contact with the invaders.
Based on accounts from the Wajãpi, Funai said the miners had killed 68-year-old Emyra Wajãpi, whose body was found with stab marks in a river near Mariry on Wednesday. It said, though, it had not been to the crime scene because of the difficulty of access.
Despite the rising tensions, killings of indigenous leaders in Brazil are rare.
The incident appears to confirm the worst fears for the fate of Brazil’s protected indigenous territories. Federal police and an elite force arrived in the area on Sunday, and both the federal police and the federal prosecutors’ office said they will investigate the events, reported by a local leader on Saturday.
“This is the first violent invasion in 30 years” since the demarcation of the indigenous reserves in Amapá,” Senator Rodolfe Rodrigues told local newspaper Diário do Amapá (in Portuguese), warning of a “blood bath”.
The 1.200 members of the Wajapi community live in dozens of villages in a 600,000-hectare reserve in Amapá, next to French Guiana.
Speaking earlier on Saturday, Bolsonaro said some of the indigenous territories were on “very rich meneral land” and that he was “looking for the ‘first world’ to explore these areas in partnership and add value,” according to O Globo newspaper.
“That’s the reason for my decision to get closer to the US. That’s why I want a person of trust in the embassy in the US,” said Bolsonaro, who wants to appoint his own congressman son, Eduardo, as ambassador.–MercoPress