The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), a body of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued a statement Sept. 5 urging Venezuelan authorities “to conduct a thorough investigation” into assertions made by representatives of the Horonami Yanomami organization that an isolated Yanomami community in southern Amazonas state was massacred by outlaw gold-miners who came across the Brazilian border. The statement came days after Venezuela’s Minister for Indigenous People Nicia Maldonado and Justice Minister Tareck el Aissami both said that teams sent to the region had found no evidence of a massacre. The IACHR called on both Venezuela and Brazil to pursue a deeper investigation, and report back their findings to the international body.
Indigenous groups in Venezuela expressed skepticism that the government’s investigation is being carried out in good faith. The Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of Amazonas (COIAM) charged in a statement that the investigative teams had not in fact visited Irotatheri, the settlement where the massacre is reported to have taken place.
The IACHR statement reminded the Venezuelan and Brazilian governments of commitments they made to put in place a joint program of surveillance and border control for the Yanomami region after the 1993 massacre at the settlement of Haximú, in which 16 Yanomami were killed. An investigation found that Brazilian garimpeiros (informal gold miners) carried out the massacre at Haximú, which lies on the border. Five of 24 charged in the massacre were convicted in the Brazilian courts, but the “Vigilance Plan” demanded by the IACHR for the Yanomami region was never fully put into place. (El Universal, Caracas, Sept. 6; CIDH, Sept. 5; IPS, Sept. 3)