International Rivers condemns and denounces the brutal attack against the Mundukuru Indigenous people on May 26. A serious offensive happened when illegal gold miners attacked a Mundukuru village in Pará State (Brazil) in retaliation for a Federal Police operation to dismantle illegal mining sites on Munduruku territory.
The invaders raided the Mundukuru village with gunshots and set fire to two houses, one of them belonging to Marisa Leusa Kaba, the coordinator of the Wakoborum Women’s Association. Although nobody was physically hurt, the attack left the whole village in shock and on high alert for future attacks. Not even the presence of National Forces in the area inhibited the rampaging attack. According to Mundukuru Organizations of Resistance and other Brazilian media outlets, the Federal Police operation was cancelled, leaving the indigenous people unprotected.
“For simply defending our river and the still-standing forest, we have become victims of the death-policies of this government, a government which leaves us at the mercy of armed miners within our own territory. We urgently call for the presence of the Federal Police to prevent further violence, murders, and massacres that will continue so long as illegal mining activities are encouraged and impunity for these criminals is assured. We see this happening throughout Yanomami and Munduruku territories”, said an Emergency Communiqué released by Munduruku Organizations of Resistance.
According to a statement released by Amazon Watch, the attack was reportedly provoked by a news leak about the police operation, prompting protests and acts of violent intimidation against key Mundukuru leaders. In addition to the invasion of the village, a group of wildcat miners attempted to overrun a police base and plunder equipment to stop agents from reaching illegally occupied lands.
This is not the first violent attack the Mundukuru people have faced in 2021. On April 18, a group of miners stole more than 380 litres of fuel and a boat engine belonging to the Munduruku Wakoborun Women’s Association. On March 25, the same association was vandalised by a group of miners. The Mundukuru organization statement warns about the possibility of future attacks and threats to other key Mundukuru leaders.
Far from condemning or taking action to put a stop to these attacks, the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro and his Environment Minister Ricardo Salles frequently address illegal mining as a misunderstood category. On several occasions – like in an online statement on April 29 – the president openly declared his support for illegal mining on indigenous territory. The high-level support for this destructive activity sends a signal to illegal miners that their actions are condoned by the federal government.
A river’s protector life under constant threat
The house of Maria Leusa Kaba, coordinator of the Wakoborum Women’s Association, was burned to the ground. She is an internationally recognized indigenous leader and a fearless activist for securing indigenous and nature rights on an increasingly endangered territory. She also was one of the key voices in the development of the Munduruku Consultation Protocol, and this experience is featured on International River’s Consultation Protocols documentary, launched in 2018.
Like many other river protectors all around the world, Leusa and her family received death threats for their opposition to illegal mining and had to leave her territory to protect herself and her family.
The highly destructive mining activity Leusa fights against is deadly to the rivers. Mining dumps toxic mercury directly into the water and accelerates the process of deforestation. Scientific research links exposure to mercury to skin disease, infertility and birth defects. Communities far beyond the area around a mining site are affected as well.
“We urgently call for the presence of the Federal Police to prevent further violence, murders, and massacres that will continue so long as illegal mining activities are encouraged and impunity for these criminals is assured. We see this happening throughout Yanomami and Munduruku territories. Our people just want to LIVE IN PEACE and HAVE OUR RIGHTS RESPECTED. We are not the ones who have asked for violence. We only ask for the protection of our Indigenous lands and lives by the State, as mandated by the Federal Constitution”, urges the emergency communiqué released by Munduruku Organizations of Resistance.
As a global organization that fights for rivers and human rights, International Rivers demands immediate protection for the Mundukuru and all other indigenous people in Brazil and expresses solidarity with the Mundukuru people. In countries where human rights abuses are rife, indigenous and local communities face enormous risks when they stand up to the powerful interests behind proposed infrastructure and extractive projects. It’s imperative to protect our river protectors.
Featured Photo: Building burns in the Munduruku village. Photo by Public Prosecutor’s Office of Pará State.