On Saturday, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva paid a visit to the Yanomami, an indigenous population who live in the state of Roraima, in northern Brazil, in the Amazon rainforest. After the visit, Lula accused his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro of having caused a humanitarian catastrophe against the Yanomami, because during his rule he encouraged extensive illegal mining in their territory.
The Minister of Justice in Lula’s government, Flávio Dino, he announced which will order an investigation by the federal police to ascertain the causes of the “criminal suffering inflicted on the Yanomami”, since “there are strong indications of genocide and other crimes”. Lula instead used even more explicit words, directly accusing his predecessor:
More than a humanitarian crisis, what I saw in Roraima was genocide. A premeditated crime against the Yanomami, committed by a government insensitive to the suffering of the Brazilian people.
The territory of Roraima is covered almost entirely by the Amazon forest, and some parts of it are considered protected areas. However, Roraima also has a high concentration of mineral deposits, especially gold: in the years of Bolsonaro’s government (from the beginning of 2019 to the end of 2022) the territory was illegally invaded by thousands of miners, accused of having contaminated the rivers and destroyed forests, depriving the Yanomami of food essential for their survival and favoring the spread of diseases among the population.
Since the election campaign leading up to his election in 2018, Bolsonaro had always argued that Roraima must open up more to commercial activities, or risk having its indigenous and resource-rich territories invaded by foreign populations.
What is most contested, however, is that he essentially allowed thousands of miners to settle in the state for illegal activities: there were around 5,000 before his government, and today it is estimated that they are around 20,000. Bolsonaro has never taken steps to counter this situation, nor to protect the Yanomami, investing in health care or to guarantee them other forms of subsistence in a very complicated period.
In recent months, the testimonies of journalistic services and voluntary associations have shown many photos of Yanomami children and adults in evidently precarious health conditions. Interviewed by the Guardian, the leader of the Yanomami, Júnior Hekurari, had defined that of Bolsonaro “a bloody government”. The Yanomami population is estimated to number around 30,000.
«Adults weighing like babies, children dying of malnutrition, malaria diarrhea and other diseases», he wrote Lula describing what he saw in Roraima. “The few data available say that in the last four years at least 570 children under the age of 5 have died in the area due to preventable diseases”.
The Brazilian minister for indigenous populations, Sônia Guajajara, went with Lula on a visit to Roraima: she said that protecting Yanomami children from malnutrition, malaria and diarrhea would be a priority for the new government and announced the expulsion of the miners from the area by the next three months.
Bolsonaro has denied the allegations, calling them “a farce of the left” and claiming that health care for indigenous peoples has been a priority of his government.
Leave a Reply