“More than a humanitarian crisis, what I saw in Roraima was a genocide. A premeditated crime against the Yanomami, committed by a government impervious to the suffering of the Brazilian people,” newly-elected President Lula said the day after visiting a health clinic crowded with Yanomami patients in Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima’s state. He accused his predecessor, Bolsonaro, of encouraging the tens of thousands of wildcat gold miners who invaded Yanomami Lands during Bolsonaro’s 2019-2022 term and ignoring Indigenous communities’ repeated appeals for help.
Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Sonia Guajajara, assessing the gold mining cartels’ abuses in supposedly protected Indigenous territories added that “every 72 hours a child is dying.”
Bolsonaro, critical of the size of constitutionally protected Indigenous reserves, proposed opening them to extractive industries, agribusiness and gold mining. His government eroded environmental protections, and his pro-business rhetoric emboldened illegal activities in the Amazon region.
High exposure to mercury can lead to severe neurological abnormalities, premature births and birth defects and the damage is irreversible.
Research in 2016 showed that 92% of the Yanomami tested had higher levels of mercury in their blood than the World Health Organization considers safe.
An estimated 28,000 Indigenous people live in the Yanomami reserve. Traditionally, they live in small, semi-permanent villages, relying on hunting, fishing and communal gardens. With all of the waterways in the region contaminated by gold mining, there is nowhere safe to go…
Gold miners destroy forests and excavate areas to form mining pits and then use toxic mercury to separate gold from the soil by agglomerating it into nuggets. Mercury contaminates the river water, then the fish, and finally the entire food chain including the Indigenous communities that eat the fish and drink, cook with and bathe in the water.
The result of the gold mining invasion by more than 20,000 wildcat gold miners is surging levels of malnutrition, malaria, mercury poisoning and death.
Indigenous Health Secretary Weibe Tapeba exclaimed of the group of starving Yanomami: “It looks like a concentration camp.” Tapeba added that “It’s an extreme calamity. Many Yanomami are suffering from malnutrition and there has been a total absence of the Brazilian state.”
Evoking Yanomami children with their hair falling out due to mercury poisoning, he said “Health teams cannot get here because of the heavily armed bandits. This can only be resolved by removing the gold miners and that can only be done by the armed forces.” Brazil’s military should evict illegal gold miners who have caused malnutrition and starvation in the region of the Yanomami lands nearest the Venezuelan border, Tapeba said. 700 members of the Yanomami community were going hungry and healthcare is non-existent due to the presence of gold miners and gangs with weapons that scare away medical workers from the health posts and interfere with people bringing in supplies of medicine and food.
Though often referred to as artisanal, the gold mining done in Yanomami lands is more industrial in scale, with planes, helicopters and speedboats transporting equipment and supplies in and gold ore out.
The Brazilian PCC criminal gang has controlled Yanomami territory since 2018. They are involved in drug trafficking, arms smuggling, racketeering and extortion as well as gold trafficking. The gang is underwritten by organized crime cartels who provide the planes, helicopters, speedboats, dredges, gas & guns.
In April 2021, Yanomami spokesman Dário Kopenawa said “There are many gold miners dying, robbing one another, killing one another, so there is a faction, it’s the PCC. The Federal Public Prosecutors’ Office, the Federal Police are aware of this. We reported: ‘Look, many people are entering Yanomami lands, causing violence, and rich gold brokers are hiring factions at the headwaters of the Uraricoera river.’ Venezuelan gold miners are working here, Brazilians are working in Venezuela too, this exchange of gold miners exists, but there is no supervision over national laws. The Army doesn’t monitor or inspect the borders between Brazil and Venezuela.”
Although the increase in drug trafficking on the border, a region that was already dominated by illegal gold mining, was known for more than ten years, the Federal Police only began to investigate in 2020 “strong suspicions” that the PCC had an alliance with Tren de Aragua, the largest criminal group in Venezuela, involved in kidnappings, homicides, vehicle theft and gold, drug, weapons and human trafficking. The investigators also noted that state and federal authorities in Roraima knew of their existence, but underestimated the exploitation of slave and child labor, as well as the sexual trafficking of women and girls to illegal gold mining areas.
A substantial part of the Yanomami blood gold transits through Venezuela and filters into the global gold supply chain, declared with false documents as “legally sourced” gold. If you buy gold, you are contributing to this horror of ethnocide and ecocide!
A tropical medicine specialist working in Roraima state, Dr Andre Siqueira, called the numerous cases of severe malnutrition affecting entire families in various Indigenous groups across Brazil “catastrophic”.
“This is something that urgently needs to be addressed, because our humanity depends on it!”
O genocida tem nome: Bolsonaro.
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