Amazon indigenous leaders accuse Brazil of ‘genocide’ policy

Updated January 19, 2020

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Members from different Brazilian tribes listen to their leader Cacique Raoni Metuktire (not depicted) in Mato Grosso state, Brazil.—AFP
Members from different Brazilian tribes listen to their leader Cacique Raoni Metuktire (not depicted) in Mato Grosso state, Brazil.—AFP

PIARACU: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s pledge to open up the Amazon to mining companies was tantamount to “genocide”, indigenous leaders said on Friday at a meeting to oppose the government’s environmental policies.

Hundreds of elders gathered this week at Pairacu, deep in the rainforest, to form a united front against Bolsonaro’s environmental policies, which have seen deforestation in the jungle nearly double since the Brazilian leader came to power a year ago.

“Our aim was to join forces and denounce the fact that the Brazilian government’s political policy of genocide, ethnocide and ecocide is under way,” the group said in a draft manifesto drawn up at the end of the summit.

“We do not accept mining on our lands, loggers, illegal fishermen or hydroelectricity. We are opposed to anything that destroys the forest,” the text said.

Members from different Brazilian tribes listen to their leader Cacique Raoni Metuktire (not depicted) in Mato Grosso state, Brazil.—AFP
Members from different Brazilian tribes listen to their leader Cacique Raoni Metuktire (not depicted) in Mato Grosso state, Brazil.—AFP

They also said that “government threats and hate speech” had encouraged violence against Amazon communities and demanded punishment for the murder of indigenous leaders. At least eight indigenous leaders were killed last year.

Brazil’s leading indigenous chief, Raoni Metuktire, said he would personally travel to the capital Brasilia to present the meeting’s demands to Congress.

“Over there, I’m going to ask Bolsonaro why he speaks so badly about the indigenous peoples,” said the 89-year-old leader of the Kayapo tribe.

Preliminary data collected by the National Institute for Space Research showed an 85 percent increase in Amazon deforestation last year when compared to 2018.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2020