Above Photo: Military police check vehicles in an effort to arrest illegal miners leaving Yanomami Indigenous land on the RR-205 road near Alto Alegre, state of Roraima, Brazil, on February 6, 2023. Michael Dantas / AFP via Getty Images.
To End ‘Genocide’ of Indigenous People.
Illegal Mining In The Yanomami Land Has Polluted Water, Degraded The Landscape Of The Rainforest, And Spread Disease.
With Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva warning his administration “will not allow illegal mining on Indigenous lands,” the government announced Wednesday that environmental special forces destroyed at least one helicopter, an airplane, and a bulldozer used by “mining mafias” in the territory of the Yanomami people in the Amazon rainforest this week.
The raids aimed at removing illegal mining operations involving tens of thousands of ore and gold miners from the region began on Monday, just over a month after the leftist president, known as Lula, took office.
The Guardian reported that the special forces set up a base near the Uraricoera River, which illegal miners used during right-wing former President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration.
“The Yanomami want peace—that is all they want. And this is what we are going to give them.”
Bolsonaro condemned the Yanomami people’s control of the land, the largest Indigenous territory in Brazil, and encouraged deforestation and mining in the Amazon. Roughly 25,000 illegal miners poured into the region during his four-year term.
The forces have seized aircraft, boats, and weapons from miners this week.
“We are in the process of removing illegal miners from Roraima,” Lula said on social media Tuesday, referring to Brazil’s northernmost state. “The situation that the Yanomami find themselves [in] near the [mining camp] is degrading.”
The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), and the newly-created Indigenous affairs ministry took part in coordinating the raids, with Defense Minister José Múcio monitoring the operation.
Sonia Guajajara, who was appointed by Lula to be Brazil’s first-ever minister of Indigenous affairs, surveyed the region, where nearly 30,000 Yanomami live, ahead of the operation.
A Ministra dos Povos Indígenas, @GuajajaraSonia, sobrevoou neste domingo (5) a região de Homoxi, na Terra Indígena Yanomami afetada pelo garimpo ilegal. Hoje mais um bebê Yanomami morreu vítima de desnutrição.
— Sonia Guajajara (@GuajajaraSonia) February 5, 2023
“The Yanomami want peace—that is all they want,” Guajajara told GloboNews. “And this is what we are going to give them.”
In addition to degrading the landscape and polluting the waterways of the Brazilian Amazon, illegal mining in the Yanomami land has had a “devastating impact” on the health of the community, Greenpeace said last week:
The use of mercury in the activity poisons the land the Indigenous people use to plant their food and the rivers they use to fish. By poisoning the water, mercury also gets into the people’s bodies, causing serious health problems, and even death.
Besides that, the presence of the miners in the Indigenous territory exposes those living there to other diseases. An explosion in cases of malaria and malnutrition, due to the lack of access to food and traditional ways of production in the Yanomami land, has been a serious threat to the lives of the Indigenous people, especially children. 11,530 confirmed cases of malaria were recorded in 2022 alone.
At least 570 Yanomami children reportedly died of curable diseases during Bolsonaro’s administration, and dozens of children have been airlifted to hospitals in recent weeks, suffering from malnutrition and malaria.
“More than a humanitarian crisis, what I saw… was a genocide,” Lula said last month after a visit to the region. “A premeditated crime against the Yanomami, committed by a government impervious to the suffering of the Brazilian people.”
On Tuesday, the president said his administration will “restructure everything that exists from the point of view of controlling our Indigenous lands, the environment.”
“We are going to try to create a new dynamic,” he added, “to have the results that Brazilian society wants.”