According to authorities, illegal gold miners reportedly massacred ten members of an uncontacted tribe deep in the Amazon Rainforest in August 2017. This has raised questions about the Brazilian government’s dedication to defending indigenous rights.
A local bystander delivered an audio tape to authorities, in which the gold miners discussed the massacre. The gold prospectors, working illegally on protected lands, bragged about “cutting up and throwing the bodies into a nearby river.” The miners also stole a hand-carved paddle from the tribe. Brazilian investigators have not yet confirmed these allegations.
Brazil is home to the largest population of uncontacted tribes in the world, but President Michel Temer has been criticized for lax protection of indigenous peoples. Since 2014, Funai, the agency in charge of indigenous affairs, has had its budget cut by more than 75 percent. As a result, the agency has about $800,000 to protect 103 uncontacted tribes, and two Funai bases in the area have been closed in the past year. It will take investigators 12 days by boat to reach the location of the suspected murders.
Temer has advocated for pro-business policies during his term, especially in the agricultural, ranching, and mining sectors. His policies have led to deregulation of deforestation and land rights. These disputes have resulted in over 50 rural workers and land activists being killed as of the end of July, according to the Land Pastoral Commission.
Despite international outrage, Brazilian media’s coverage of this event has been nearly non-existent, which could be due to the local media’s alleged right-wing bias and support for Temer. This perceived media bias is a sore point for leftist protestors who were angered when the media ran wall-to-wall coverage of the protests against impeached Former-President Dilma Rousseff but little-to-no coverage of similar protests against Temer.
In recent years, gold miners have repeatedly infringed on indigenous peoples’ lands, bringing heavy earth-moving equipment with them. They pose an additional risk to uncontacted tribes, who often lack the necessary immunity to fight diseases common in the rest of the world.
Survival International, an organization promoting indigenous rights, has referred to the alleged attacks as “genocidal” and blamed Temer and his deregulation agenda. However, investigators are still cautious about the allegations and want further inspections before making a judgment.