Human Rights Watch condemns the attacks perpetrated by groups involved in illegal mining against Munduruku Indigenous leaders in the state of Pará on May 26, 2021. According to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF), armed miners operating in the region raided the Fazenda Tapajós village in Jacareacanga and set several houses on fire. One of them belonged to Maria Leusa Munduruku, a prominent opponent of illegal mining and coordinator of the Wakoborũn Munduruku Women’s Association. Local Indigenous leaders informed the MPF that a group of miners was preparing to attack other villages. Several leaders have also received threats, a local source told Human Rights Watch.
The attacks against Indigenous leaders are taking place as miners also seek to obstruct a major deployment of police, agents from the federal environmental enforcement agency Ibama and the National Force to curb illegal mining in the Indigenous territories Munduruku and Sai Cinza. Local authorities reportedly supported miners’ efforts to undermine law enforcement. The operation follows a decision by Brazil’s highest court requiring the government to immediately protect Yanomami and Munduruku Indigenous peoples, after a petition submitted by the civil society organization Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB).
It is extremely concerning that groups involved in illegal mining are emboldened to use violence even with a major deployment of law enforcement in the region. Since taking office in January 2019, the government of President Jair Bolsonaro has sabotaged environmental law enforcement, enabling widespread impunity for environmental infractions. His actions and words effectively gave a green light to criminal groups driving illegal logging and deforestation in the Amazon. President Bolsonaro should publicly and categorically denounce the illegal invasions of Indigenous territories and the acts of violence and intimidation against forest defenders. He should publicly express full support for efforts by police and environment agents to enforce the law, including by ensuring they have adequate resources to continue operating in the region.