Indigenous genocide in Roraima and its perpetrators

Image: Lucas Vinícius Pontes
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By LISZT VIEIRA*

There are three main perpetrators of the Yanomami genocide: Bolsonaro, Sergio Moro and governor Antônio Denarium of Roraima

“In Brazil, what the law gives, the paragraph takes away” (Glauber Rocha).

The Yanomami Land has been suffering from the actions of illegal miners for decades. In 2022, devastation reached 54% – a scenario that has changed with the actions taken by the current government since January of this year. The invasion of predatory mining, in addition to impacting the increase in diseases in the territory, causes violence, armed conflicts and devastates the environment - with an increase in deforestation, pollution of rivers due to the use of mercury, and damage to hunting and fishing , impacting natural resources essential to the survival of indigenous people in the forest.

To legitimize the occupation of illegal mining on Yanomami lands, the then Minister of Justice Sérgio Moro presented Bill no. 191/2020, with the aim of authorizing the mining of minerals in indigenous reserves. This Bill contained a killer paragraph in article 14, which annulled the entire content of the law mentioning that the President of the Republic should consider the manifestation of indigenous communities affected by mining.

The second paragraph said: “The request for authorization may be forwarded with a contrary statement from the affected indigenous communities, as long as it is motivated.”

During the discussion and reading of the project, thousands of Yanomami succumbed to predatory mining. The project opened the doors to the death and annihilation of the original peoples of the Amazon. The authorization of mineral mining, against the will of the original peoples, is not only unconstitutional, it is harmful. Apparently, the usurpation of the wealth of indigenous lands was one of the priorities of the Bolsonarist power project, of which Sérgio Moro was the architect and protagonist since he condemned, without evidence, the then former president Lula to prevent his candidacy for President in 2018.

On March 31 of this year, President Lula made official the request to withdraw Bill (PL) 191/2020 from the Chamber of Deputies. Authored by Jair Bolsonaro's government, the PL intended to liberalize mining, hydroelectric generation, oil and gas exploration and large-scale agriculture on indigenous lands.

The accusations of genocide against the Yanomami reached the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which also received reports of sexual abuse in Yanomami Land. Court judges visited the Auaris region, in Yanomami Land, where they heard reports from indigenous leaders who live in communities impacted by illegal mining. As released by the agency G1 RR, Boa Vista, the Judges of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) reported on 25/10/2023 that they had received reports of sexual abuse of women and girls carried out by miners in Yanomami Land and must demand that the Brazilian State take measures to guarantee protection to indigenous people.

In addition to the reports of sexual abuse, the Court also heard testimony about violations of the health and life of indigenous people, and saw the mining sites opened by the invaders in the forest as they headed towards the territory with the intention of finding out whether Brazil has complied with safety measures. protection of indigenous peoples.

The Court is the autonomous judicial body responsible for applying and interpreting the American Convention on Human Rights. Brazil ratified the Pact in 1992 and recognized the Court's mandatory jurisdiction in 1998. In other words, the country is obliged to comply with the requested measures. They are in Brazil to find out whether the State guaranteed protection for the Yanomami, Yek'uana and Munduruku indigenous peoples.

After meeting with indigenous leaders, Judge Nancy Hernández declared, in a press conference, that she had received “photos, videos and information about cases of systematic rape of women and children” (weather info, 26/10/2023 and Bandnews Difusora, 25/10/2023).

In 2022, a report by the Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY) already reported that miners demanded sex from indigenous girls and women as currency in exchange for food in Yanomami Land. Participating in the hearing with the judges were leaders who live in the Paapiu, Uxiu, Palimiu, Waikás, Kuratanha and Auaris communities, all affected by illegal mining.

The Court intends to pressure the Brazilian State to intensify actions to protect the indigenous people who live in these communities. According to the vice-president of the IACHR, Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor, these actions aim to prevent the situation from becoming irremediable. He declared that “the measures are extremely serious and urgent. Now we only came to comply with the provisional measures that are binding, therefore linked to the Brazilian State”.

The largest indigenous territory in Brazil, the Yanomami Indigenous Land is experiencing a serious humanitarian and health crisis in which dozens of adults and children suffer from severe malnutrition and malaria. Since January 20th, the region has been in a public health emergency and, from January of this year, the Armed Forces, federal bodies and agencies are part of the Federal Government's task force to protect indigenous people in the region. The operation takes place through patrolling actions, searches of people, land vehicles, boats and aircraft and arrests in the act of committing a crime.

At the beginning of this year, the genocide of the Yanomami broke out in the press, with emphasis on the portal Brazil 247 who carried out a denunciation campaign: “What is happening in the territories of the Yanomami people is a true genocide programmed by predatory capitalism, which covets the vast region delimited for these original peoples, the legitimate owners of these lands, rich in minerals and with areas coveted by farmers and loggers” (Milton Alves, Brazil 247, 10/3/2023). “The Yanomami massacre was a planned killing whose beneficiaries were agribusiness, mining, and timber traffickers” (Gilvandro Filho, 22/1/2023).

“What I saw in Roraima was genocide,” President Lula said in January. “Premeditated crime against the Yanomami, committed by an insensitive government,” he stated on 22/1/2023. On the same occasion, Justice Minister Flavio Dino ordered an investigation to investigate genocide in Yanomami territory. Environmental crimes will also be the target of the investigation. But, in October of this year, Kayapo chief Raoni declared: “Lula is slow with the indigenous people. I will charge him until he is attended to.” Chiefs Raoni and Davi Kopenawa say the Government is slow to remove invaders from reserves (The Globe, 27/10/2023).

Minister Marina Silva declared that the Yanomami crisis is an “unspeakable atrocity” (Sheet, 6/2/2023). In March, she visited a base attacked by miners in Yanomami Land and cited 'immeasurable degradation' in the territory. In August of this year, she stated in Belém that indigenous lands threatened by invaders and activities such as mining must undergo new operations to expel non-indigenous people. And she publicly called on the Governor of Roraima, Antonio Denarium, to stop encouraging mining on indigenous lands (Roraima Portal 1, on 3/5/2023).

There are three main perpetrators of the Yanomami genocide. Firstly, former president Jair Bolsonaro, whose crimes need no introduction. He considered the genocide of the Yanomami as a government project. By the way, to this day, the sudden and unforeseen deviation of the route for the landing of the presidential plane in Roraima in December last year, when former president Bolsonaro was leaving Brazil for the USA, has not been clarified. According to many observers, the objective was to look for gold to take to the USA where, as it was a presidential plane, there would be no customs search.

The PT and PSOL sued the Attorney General's Office (PGR) against Jair Bolsonaro and former Minister Damares for genocide. And the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) filed a criminal representation with the PGR on January 26 of this year against Jair Bolsonaro and his allies, including the former Minister of Women, Damares Alves.

In second place on the list of leaders is former minister Sergio Moro. Author of the Bill that facilitated mining in Yanomami territory, Moro is considered by the residents of Roraima as “the legal mind behind the genocide against Yanomami” (Brazil 247, 30/3/2023). His Bill 191/2020 made indigenous genocide legally viable.

Third, a lesser-known figure. The state of Roraima is in the hands of a Bolsonarian governor who boycotts reforestation projects in favor of mining on indigenous lands and soybean plantations. The current governor Antônio Denarium initially built his wealth at the expense of the financial misfortune of hundreds of people who took loans in the usury format, which led to hundreds of lawsuits against him.

Not satisfied, he turned to politics to obtain even more wealth. In the 2022 election, he diverted resources from health and education and spent a fortune to ensure his re-election. Financial excesses threw the state of Roraima into an unprecedented financial crisis. And, to top the genocidal barbarity, councilor Ítalo Otavio, linked to the Governor and the Bolsonarist Senator Mecias de Jesus, presented a municipal bill limiting access to the public health system to residents of the city of Boa Vista, requiring proof of residence . The objective was to prevent Venezuelans and indigenous people from accessing public healthcare. This was considered attempted genocide.

Today the governor is seeking R$800 million from Caixa Econômica to try to remain in power, since his revocation in the TRE-RR was approved last July. Surprisingly, despite having been revoked, the embargoes were shelved, ensuring that the process would not proceed to the TSE, where he is certain that it would be fatally revoked definitively. Three months after the governor's impeachment, the Regional Electoral Court of Roraima has not yet continued with the post-trial procedures. The case is stuck in the TRE and should no longer go to the TSE this year (portal The power, 27/10/2023).

The Yanomami genocide has the direct support of Governor Denarium, who has always supported killing indigenous people, cutting down forests and polluting rivers. He, sooner or later, along with Jair Bolsonaro and Sérgio Moro, will be held responsible for their crimes. It will take time, as always happens in legal proceedings. But the visit by the Human Rights Commission that collected evidence of the Yanomami genocide is an important step forward in putting these three criminals, directly responsible for the indigenous genocide in Roraima, on the stand.

*Liszt scallop is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond). [https://amzn.to/3sQ7Qn3]

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