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Indigenous Brazilians say attacks continue despite protection order

(A Brazilian indigenous boy of the Mundurucu tribe looks out from behind placards as he attends a 2018 rally in Brazil’s capital Brasilia. Photo: AFP)

RIO DE JANEIRO, (AFP):- Indigenous Brazilians of the Mundurucu ethnic group on Wednesday said their leaders were attacked following a police operation aimed at kicking out miners squatting on native land in the far northern state of Para.

Brazil’s Supreme Court this week ordered the government to protect members of the Mundurucu and Yanomami indigenous groups who are threatened by wildcat miners in their communities deep in the Amazon rainforest.

“Criminals are terrorizing the leaders of the Mundurucu people for opposing illegal mining,” tweeted Sonia Guajajara, a leader of the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB).

“In an act of terrorism they torched the home of (Mundurucu leader) Maria Leusa Kaba and are continuing to threaten other people in reprisal for the Federal Police operation in the region to kick out invaders,” said Guajajara, one of the main spokespeople for indigenous Brazilians.

On Tuesday some 130 federal police agents launched an operation near the town of Jacareacanga against illegal mining in land belonging to the Mundurucu and Sai Cinza people, “fulfilling measures requested by the Federal Supreme Court,” police said in a statement.

Federal Police did not confirm the new attacks that the native groups talked about, but did say that their forces “were surprised by a group of miners protesting the operation that protected indigenous lands.”

The protesting miners tried to destroy police vehicles and equipment, police said, but agents managed to contain the unrest and there were no injuries.

For decades there have been clashes between illegal miners and indigenous Brazilians, but the level of violence has reportedly increased since Jair Bolsonaro — who supports the exploitation of resources in native lands — became president in January 2019.

– Police reinforcements –

Para state Governor Helder Barbalho said Wednesday that he is “worried by the tense situation” and sent police reinforcements from the state capital Belem to join federal agents and to act as mediators.

Illegal gold and diamond mining in the Amazon rainforest is both an environmentally damaging and lucrative business.

Some indigenous Brazilians in the region have joined the invaders and help the miners in their activities and even attacks on rivals, according to local media.

A Supreme Court justice on Monday ruled that the government of Bolsonaro must “immediately adopt all the necessary measures to protect the life, health and security of the indigenous people” living in the Yanomami and Mundurucu territory in the northern Amazon region.

On May 10 the Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY) reported a clash between Yanomami natives and illegal miners who invaded the community of Palimiu, in Roraima state, with four miners and a Yanomami defender suffering gunshot wounds.

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