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Brazil moves to prevent 'massacre' of Amazon tribe by drug traffickers

By jon-q, Aug 9, 2011 | | |
  1. jon-q
    The head of Brazil's indigenous protection service is to make an emergency visit to a remote jungle outpost, amid fears that members of an isolated Amazon tribe may have been "massacred" by drug traffickers.

    Fears for the tribe's wellbeing have been escalating since late July when a group of heavily armed Peruvian traffickers reportedly invaded its land, triggering a crisis in the remote border region between Brazil and Peru.

    On 5 August Brazilian federal police launched an operation in the region, arresting Joaquim Antônio Custódio Fadista, a Portuguese man alleged to have been operating as a cocaine trafficker.

    But after the police pulled out, officers with the indigenous protection service (Funai) decided to return fearing a "massacre". They claimed that groups of men with rifles and machine guns were still at large in the rainforest. Reports suggest the traffickers may have been attempting to set up new smuggling routes, running through the tribe's land.

    "We decided to come back here because we believed that these guys may be massacring the isolated [tribe]," Carlos Travassos, the head of Brazil's department for isolated indigenous peoples, told the Brazilian news website IG.

    "We are more worried than ever. The situation could be one of the greatest blows we have seen to the work to protect isolated Indians in decades. A catastrophe … genocide!"

    In an interview with the Globo Natureza website, the Funai co-ordinator for isolated groups, Antenor Vaz, said: "Either these guys have killed the isolated Indians or they have had contact with them. We know that these Indians defend themselves by attacking."

    Facing mounting pressure, Funai's president, Márcio Meira, is on Tuesday expected to fly into a jungle position used to monitor the wellbeing of the area's indigenous people. The post is located about 23km (14 miles) from the Peruvian border and 240km from the already remote town of Feijo in Acre state.

    The region made global headlines in 2008, when Funai released a series of startling aerial photographs proving the existence of never-contacted tribes there. The images showed tribesmen in one village, painted in red and pointing bows and arrows at a government aeroplane.

    Earlier this year Fabricio Amorim, another Funai co-ordinator, said the region was home to "the greatest concentration of isolated groups in the Amazon and the world", though he added that illegal logging and drug trafficking represented major threats to such communities.

    "We are extremely worried about this situation," said Fiona Watson, Brazil campaigner for Survival International. "It really highlights how out of control things are on the Peru side, and the urgent need for constant, long-term protection for the uncontacted tribes on both sides of the border."

    She added that the situation was "potentially life threatening" for those communities.

    José Carlos Meirelles, a veteran indigenous protection officer who is among the five-strong team of activists in the region, vowed to remain until action was taken.

    "Since nobody from the Brazilian state is prepared to stay here, we took the decision… to come here," he wrote in one email to the media.

    "We are completely surrounded," wrote Travassos. "We have nowhere to run. And we will not [run] until something is done."

    Tom Phillips
    Guardian 9th Aug 2011


  1. Herbal Healer 019
    Another unfortunate effect of an unregulated drug market.

    Although these claims hold no evidence of a massacre actually having taken place, it wouldnt surprise me if cartel groups did consider slaughtering the tribe to gain access to their land for a trafficking corridor. Very sad
  2. veritas.socal
    but, why not keep it prankster?
    were swim the 'liason-human relations dude-atty' for the narcotraffickers, i would go to the chief of the tribe
    "look, we need YOUR HELP"(make it sound like they are helping)"show us a way thru your land where we will make the minimum impact on the land, and bee safe. we will pay you well, because you WILL ensure our shipments safety within the borders of your lands."
    this is a win/win situation, without incurring negative karma
    and there are "honest" drug dealers/traffickers/producers. there are honest gangs, or families, who break the laws but still are kind and respectful.

    lawbreaking and viciousness need not bee the same
  3. Slidedaddy
    But killing them is there (the drug traffickers) style. you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks...
  4. mistral
    Traffickers don't kill people just because: they do it because it's cheaper or to infund fear.

    In this case, probably because it's not only easier but also the only way. Many tribes just won't let strangers in the area. This is not unjustified, let me remind you that most of the Amazon tribes were slaughtered by companies and governments that wanted access to gold, timber and crop land. Hundreds of acres of virgin rainforest are burned down every week to grow soy beans, and until just a few decades ago the common practice was to first shoot as many "aborígenes" you could find using private personnel, then "government aid" would chip in by giving the few remaining natives disease-infested clothes. Mostly malaria, but many an infectious disease has been used. How can anyone blame them for not wanting strangers in their lands?

    That's also why it's virtually impossible to set up a permanent government presence to discourage trafficking. I guess that's what you get for being a total moron when you had the chance to do things right...
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