Lula visits the Amazon, promising to fight the Yanomami indigenous crisis | Brazil

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Brazil’s first indigenous minister, Sonia Guadajara, has vowed to make solving the humanitarian crisis in the country’s largest indigenous territory a “top priority” as she prepares to fly to the region with new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Under former President Jair Bolsonaro, thousands of illegal gold miners poured into the Yanomami enclave in the Amazon, causing violence, pollution and health problems.

On Friday, Lula announced that he and Guadajara would make an emergency visit to the Amazonian state of Roraima, home to Yanomami territory, to lead the government’s response to “crippling levels of malnutrition.”

“Our Yanomami relatives are facing a humanitarian and health crisis. We cannot allow our loved ones to die of malnutrition and starvation,” Guadajara tweeted.

In December, before his appointment as minister, Guadajara visited the region to denounce a 75-mile illegal road dug by powerful mining mafias across an area of ​​96,650 km2 (37,300 sq mi).

In an interview in Brazil last week, he said addressing the Yanomami crisis, which has exposed Yanomami children to alarming rates of malaria, vermin, malnutrition and diarrhea, is one of his priorities.

Sonia Guadajara, Brazil’s first Minister of Indigenous Peoples. Photo: Valentina Ricardo

“According to the information we received, every 72 hours a child dies from one of these diseases,” said Guadajara, who was born in the Arariboya region of the Amazon. “Children are dying from lack of food caused by contaminated water and the presence of illegal miners.”

The 48-year-old politician said he had spoken to Brazil’s new justice minister, Flavio Dino, about launching a major security operation that would send troops to evict some 27,000 Yanomami and 20,000 minor Ye group members from the protected area. lived by the Kwana peoples.

If Lula’s new government approves such plans, “we can expel these invaders in less than three months,” Guadajara said.

On Monday, the Ministry of Health sent a multidisciplinary team on a 10-day mission to Yanomami territory to assess the health crisis.

In the early 1990s, thousands of tin and gold miners were evicted from Yanomami lands following a global outcry over their impact on remote communities in the region. A reserve of 9.6 million hectares was created to preserve the lives of the Yanomami.

But within a decade, the scouts have returned, with numbers reaching new heights under Bolsonaro’s administration from 2019 to 2022, as his anti-environmental rhetoric and policies have emboldened rainforest loggers.

Guadajara acknowledged that such evictions would create an “emergency” outside Yanomami territory, because of the large number of poor people. garimpeiro (independent researchers) lost their jobs.

A Yanomami man stands near an illegal gold mine.
A Yanomami man stands near an illegal gold mine. Photo: Bruno Kelly/Reuters

“These minors come from all over the country and they too become victims of this process. We must punish the politicians and businessmen who own these mines,” he said.

“They should be punished. Minors engage in illegal activities. But often they do it not because they want to, but out of necessity. So we see them as victims too.

Guadajara said another priority for his ministry would be support for isolated indigenous groups in the Javari Valley of the Amazon, where British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were killed last June. they documented local efforts to protect rainforests.

According to Guadajara, seven months later, Javari continued to suffer “violence, harassment and murder” despite national and international protests.

Beto Marubo, a Javari chief near Pereira, said since the two men were shot in the Itaqua River, there had been little protection for local defenders in the area.

Marubo predicted that the new Indigenous Peoples Ministry will face major obstacles as it pursues ambitious goals.

“We’re going to have to deal with a very conservative Congress made up of people who have absolutely no commitment to indigenous rights or the environment,” he said.

Protests in Sao Paulo demand justice and demarcation of indigenous lands following the deaths of British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous affairs expert Bruno Pereira.
Demonstrations in Sao Paulo call for justice and demarcation of indigenous peoples after the murders of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira. Photo: Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images

“But this is undeniably a historic event,” added Marubo, who hoped the start of Lula’s new government on January 1, 2023, would increase the chances of justice being served after the murders of Phillips and Pereira.

Speaking as a minister last week, Guadajara acknowledged that the legacy of centuries of violence and discrimination against indigenous peoples since the “discovery” of Brazil in 1500 cannot be erased today. the next day. “We know that overcoming 522 years in four years is not easy,” he said.

But Guadajara thought Lula was truly committed to the cause of the indigenous people. “He’s not just supporting us, he really wants to make a difference and do things differently,” he said.

In his first major television interview of the year on Wednesday, Lula vowed to “fight tooth and nail” to end deforestation in the Amazon by 2030 and announced plans to create a special federal police unit to fight deforestation and drug trafficking.

According to Guadajara, the new ministry and the decision to put Joenia Wapichana, a local politician, in charge of the Funai Local Agency, is the result of the struggle of indigenous generations.

“It’s amazing. “Sometimes I still feel like it’s a dream,” he says. “But when you look at how far we’ve come to this point, you’ll see that it wasn’t by accident and it wasn’t easy.”

The title of this article has been updated to clarify the area of ​​Bolsonaro’s visit.

All news on the site does not represent the views of the site, but we automatically submit this news and translate it using software technology on the site, rather than a human editor.

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