A Munduruku indigenous man was killed in a gunfight with Brazilian federal police at the remote Amazonian settlement of Teles Pires, straddling the border of Mato Grosso and Pará states, authorities said Nov. 9. Six other Mundurukus and three officers were wounded, the federal police said. The police were part of a multi-state operation targeting illegal gold mining. Police said a group of Munduruku men armed with shotguns and bows and arrows attacked the officers as they were destroying mining equipment. Authorities charge Munduruku leaders were receiving monthly payoffs from illegal miners. (Otramérica, Nov. 25; Agência Estado, Nov. 21; EFE, Nov. 9)
Work on Brazil's controversial $13 billion Belo Monte hydro-dam has been at a halt since Nov. 11, when workers torched buildings at three work sites of the Monte Belo Construction Consortium (CCBM), hired by parastatal Norte Energia to build the massive complex. The violence broke out after CCBM proposed a seven percent wage hike to the workers in an area where the inflation rate is at 30%. In addition to labor undest, CCBM has also faced physical obstruction by local indigenous peoples. On Oct. 9 a group of protesters—150 natives and local fishermen—interrupted construction, accusing Norte Energia of backtracking on accords signed in June when indigenous people occupied the dam site for three weeks. (AFP, Nov. 13; Xingo Vivo, Nov. 11) A local court halted construction of the project Aug. 14, finding that indigenous inhabitants had not been consulted, but Brazil's Supreme Federal Tribunal ordered construction to resume two weeks later, citing the project's criticality to "the administrative order, the economic order and the Brazilian energy policy." Brazil's Prosecutor General is to meanwhile investigate the question of whether indigenous peoples had been properly consulted. (The Rio Times, Aug. 30)
The UK's Daily Mail this week, citing a letter from indigenous leaders obtained via Brazil's Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), reported that en entire tribe of the Guarani people—consisting of 50 men, 50 women and 70 children—have threatened to commit collective suicide if they are evicted from their traditional lands. The Guarani-Kaiowa tribe are currently camped on lands claimed by a rancher in Brazil's southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and local Judge Henrique Bonachela upheld a petition by the rancher to have the Guarani evicted—dimsissing their claim that they have lived on the land for centuries and it includes ancient burial grounds. Bonachela reportedly imposed a fine equivalent to $240 for every day that the tribe remains on the land, on the banks of the Rio Joguico. The Spanish news agency EFE later cited both CIMI and the Brazilian indigenous affairs agency FUNAI as denying that the Guarani-Kaiowa had threatened mass suicide. A statement on the CIMI website says there are "different interpretations" of the letter issued by the Guarani-Kaiowa community, called Kue Pyelito, in which they denounced the eviction as tantamount to their "collective death." (EFE, CIMI, Oct. 25; Daily Mail, Oct. 24; Combate ao Racismo Ambiental, Oct. 10)
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.
Venezuelan officials investigating a reported mass killing of Yanomami indigenous people say the have found no evidence of the attack. Minister of Indigenous Peoples Nicia Maldonado said a team travelled to the area by helicopter and failed to locate the bodies witnesses had described finding. "No evidence of any death was found," Maldonado said on state TV. "There is no evidence of murder or fire in either houses or shabonos [communal dwellings] in the communities where the alleged crime took place." Gen. José Eliecer Pinto of the National Guard told Ultimas Noticias newspaper that he had visited four indigenous communities along with other officials and that "everything is fine there." Officials expressed skepticism at claims that outlaw gold miners came across the border from Brazil to attack the settlemet from the air by helicopter. "It would be extremely hard to do," said Gen. Rafael Zambrano, commander of the Venezuelan army unit responsible for the region.
A Brazilian federal judge in Pará on Aug. 31 agreed to conduct the first trial against members of the former dictatorship for alleged crimes during the military's rule from 1964-1985. The defendants are two retired army reserve members, Col. Sebastiao de Moura and Maj. Licio Maciel, accused of kidnappings during suppression of the guerilla movement in the Araguaia region between 1972 and 1975. The judge agreed with prosecutors that Brazil's 1979 amnesty law, which provides amnesty for members of the government and military alleged to have committed political crimes between 1961 and 1975, does not apply because bodies of the alleged kidnapping victims were never found, and the cases are therefore still technically open.
Amnesty International reports that 45 families from the Quilombo Pontes community in Pirapemas municipality, in Brazil's northeastern Maranhão state, are being systematically threatened and intimidated by gunmen who are patrolling the area. The gunmen are employed by local ranchers who are trying to push the community off the land. Crops and property belonging to the community have been destroyed, and its members are now struggling to provide food for their families. The Pontes community was officially recognised as a quilombo territory—communities of descendants of escaped slaves—in December 2011, but the authorities have not intervened to guarantee the integrity of their land.
Authorities in Venezuela pledge to investigate breaking reports that illegal gold miners in southern Amazonas state carried out a "massacre" of an isolated Yanomami indigenous community. Witnesses of the aftermath described finding "burnt bodies and bones" at the community of Irotatheri, Alto Orinoco municipality, near the Brazilian border in the headwaters of the Río Ocamo, an Orinoco tributary. (See iTouch Map; Venezuela political map) Blame is being placed on illegal miners, known as garimpeiros, who cross the border from Brazil to prospect for gold and have attacked indigenous peoples before.