BRAZIL: Prospectors Invade Indigenous Land, Murder Village Leader

By Jakob Stein

On July 23, dozens of armed prospectors raided a Wajãpi indigenous village in the state of Amapá and murdered village leader Emyra Wajãpi.

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Indigenous leader Emyra Wajãpi, murdered by mining prospectors.

The National Indian Foundation (Funai) declined to confirm the details of the chief’s death, however the other villagers reported that the 68-year-old leader was stabbed in the woods while returning to the village and thrown in a river.

Fascist president Jair Bolsonaro, who has long been an avid supporter of mining and other destructive industries on Indigenous land, denied the existence of any evidence of murder or trespassing on the part of prospectors. In an interview with Campo Grande News in 2015 he said, “There is no indigenous territory where there are no minerals. Gold, tin and magnesium are in these lands, especially in the Amazon, the richest area in the world. I’m not getting into this nonsense of defending land for Indians.”

Throughout Bolsonaro’s short tenure as president, protections for Indigenous land have been rolled back and land invasions from mining as well as agribusiness and logging companies have increased by 150%. He has repeatedly said in public statements that he supports the use of indigenous lands for commercial purposes, in opposition to the 1988 Constitution, which guarantees their protection and exclusive use for Indigenous people.

Land invasions from mining companies displace communities across Brazil, and the presence of mines often result in environmental damage and the murder of people, whether by force or negligence. One such example is the case of Brumadinho, in the Belo Horizonte metropolitan area, in which the mining company Vale destroyed a tailings dam (an earth-filled embankment) on the Córrego do Feijão on January 25, causing a massive torrent of water and mud to bury homes and sweep away hundreds of people. Official figures show 248 dead and another 22 missing, and reports also mention that some of the recovered bodies were badly mutilated.

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Aftermath of Brumadinho Dam Disaster of January 2019 caused by mining company Vale.

On July 25, residents, family members, and popular organizations held an action demanding justice for those murdered by Vale’s crime against the people. A representative of the Popular Women’s Movement (MFP) was present at the action and denounced: “Vale makes its intense propaganda that mining is synonymous with ‘economic development for Brazil’, it’s a lie! Vale’s history of all mining in Brazil is synonymous with backwardness, slavery, servitude, exploitation and destruction. This [Brumadinho’s crime] was not the first nor will it be the last mass murder that mining exploitation committed against the Brazilian people.”

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Residents, family members, and others perform an act demanding justice in memory of the victims of the Vale mining company in Brumadinho.

Bolsonaro’s outright support for the invasion of the land of Indigenous groups and poor peasants, and the expansion of mining and agribusiness projects only further demonstrates his role as a lackey of US imperialism and servant of the latifundio (big landlords). His policy toward Indigenous people can only be described as genocidal, and his anti-people crimes continue to push the masses against the reactionary old state and serve to strengthen the demand for a new democratic revolution in Brazil.