BRASILIA (Reuters) – Wildcat gold miners illegally prospecting on protected indigenous lands in the Amazon fired on a Munduruku village and burned down the house of one of its leaders on Wednesday, Brazil’s main indigenous organization said.
Federal Police said the gold miners then tried to invade the local police post and wreck vehicles and helicopters that are being used in an ongoing operation against the miners, police said in a statement.
Plumes of black smoke could be seen across the Tapajos river rising from the house of Munduruku women’s leader Maria Leusa that was set on fire with gasoline and burned to the ground, the indigenous umbrella organization APIB said.
APIB said it suspected the attack on the village was a reprisal for the police operation to protect indigenous lands.
The miners fired shots at the village in the latest of a mounting wave of attacks on indigenous communities in gold prospecting areas in the Amazon. The wildcat miners have been emboldened by Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and his support for legalizing wild mining and commercial activities on indigenous lands.
There were no reports on anyone injured in the incident.
“Once again, indigenous lives are threatened by the illegal miners in the Amazon,” APIB said in a statement.
“This routine of terror is happening also in the Yanomami reservation that has been under intense attack since the beginning of the month in Roraima state,” APIB said, referring to Brazil’s largest indigenous reservation.
The Yanomami reservation on the border with Venezuela has been invaded by more than 20,000 wildcat miners in a gold rush that has accelerated since Bolsonaro became president in 2019.
Federal police said it deployed 130 officers, environmental and indigenous affairs inspectors on Wednesday following orders from Brazil’s Supreme Court to protect indigenous communities and stop the illegal mining.
The police said they were forced to disperse the miners when they protested in the town of Jacareacanga, deep in the Amazon jungle in Pará state, and tried to occupy the police base.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Bill Berkrot)