Indigenous Amazon Reservation Invaded by 20,000 Miners, Bolsonaro Does Nothing

July 16, 2019 at 3:48 pm

Bolsonaro stands by and watches as 20,000 gold miners rush onto Brazil’s largest indigenous reserve, clear-cutting, polluting rivers and spreading malaria

An estimated 20,000 gold miners have swarmed into Yanomami Park, one of the largest indigenous reserves in the Amazon, since Bolsonaro took office in January.

The miners are polluting rivers with mercury and silt, eroding river banks, clear-cutting rainforest, scaring away animals hunted by the Yanomami people, destroying fisheries and inciting indigenous women into prostitution, Mongabay reports.

They’ve built three illegal air strips and dug three open-pit gold mines within the Yanomami indigenous territory.

An invasion of this magnitude hasn’t happened on the Yanomami reserve since the 1980s when about a fifth of the indigenous population died from violence, malaria, malnutrition and mercury poisoning within 7 years of 40,000 gold miners moving in.

“They are only bringing problems,”  Yanomami leader Davi Kopenawa said. “Malaria is increasing. It’s already killed four children in the Marari region.”

Mining creates large stagnant pools of water, perfect for breeding mosquitos that spread malaria.

Isolated or uncontacted tribes are also affected by the mining. The landing strips and mines are located where uncontacted peoples have been spotted by the Yanomami.

The army bases that used to guard two major entry routes to Yanomami Park have been de-funded and closed down since Bolsonaro took office.

The new president argued in a live interview in April that large-scale mining and extensive mono-crop agriculture should be allowed on Yanomami Park.

“Indians should not continue to be poor living above rich land,” he said. “In Roraima, there are trillions of reais [Brazilian currency] under their land,” Bolsonaro said.

He neglected to mention that it wouldn’t be the Yanomami who profited from the gold.

“You [Bolsonaro] say that we are going hungry,” Kopenawa said in a response video. “But it is a lie. None of us, Yanomami, are going hungry.”

“Gold should remain under the ground,” another Yanomami man said. “We want a better income, but with our own projects.”

Among those projects is chocolate. Cacao is endemic to the region, and the Yanomami people don’t even consume the seeds of the plant that is used to make chocolate, just the sweet flesh of the pods around them. Several companies are now working with the Yanomami to sustainably harvest chocolate from their land.