Environment, Economy & Ethnic Cleansing: Brazil’s Tribe Murders

A previously uncontacted Amazonian tribe attacked, 10 killed in the search for gold in August, killers taken into custody.

Illegal gold miners from São Paulo, Brazil have been detained on suspicion of killing an estimated eight to ten members of a previously uncontacted Indigenous tribe living in the Javari Valley near the Peruvian border after news broke on Monday, September 11.

The miners were overheard discussing their crime in what has been described by Leila Silvia Burger Sotto-Maior, Funai’s coordinator for uncontacted tribes, as, “crude bar talk”.  They were even seen brandishing an elaborate paddle, likely taken as loot from their victims. They bragged, with witnesses quoting them saying, “we had to kill them or be killed.”

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Yet, despite all the compelling evidence,  the prosecutor for the case, Pablo Beltrand, says that it will still be very difficult to prove the miners’ guilt. There are a variety of factors that contribute to this. Firstly, the miners are not confessing to the crime, even after days of being detained. Secondly, the Javari Valley is home to an estimated 14 previously uncontacted tribes, and is roughly the size of Portugal. And finally, under Brazil’s new leadership, funding for Indigenous affairs has been slashed dramatically, leaving only a quarter of the previous budget. Not only does this limit resources for the case, but it also gives a public impression that the Indigenous population does not matter at all.

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