File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 620

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 10:19:36 -0500
Subject: M-I: Genocide against the Yanomami


I think Fiona Watson, Survival's Brazil campaign officer, has got one hell
of a cheek to write disapprovingly that 'sadly not all Yanomami groups have
been able to resist encroaching white society'. Why exactly is she so
horrified that in one area 'some of the Yanomami have slung their hammocks
around the stilts supporting the abandoned [government agency] post'?
Perhaps it makes it harder for her to get picturesque photos. Fiona
believes we should protect the Yanomami from the advances of civilisation
by declaring their lands a national park where their culture could be
preserved. It sounds like a human zoo to me.


The genocide of the Yanomami began in the early 70's, when the first
invasions of the Indian territory by miners were registered. Since then,
about 2,000 Indians were killed. The Brazilian government allowed this
genocide to happen, as shown by the data listed below:

1974: the Perimetral Norte highway, a road cutting the Yanomami territory,
begins to be built. The area is invaded by hundreds of workermen ; in the
three-year period that followed, influenza, measles, and tuberculosis claim
the lives of over 80 Indians. Soon after that, the results of the
Radambrasil Project, which surveyed the mineral potential of the Amazonian
soil, are published. The survey indicates the existence of large quantities
of uranium, gold, diamonds, and tin ore in the Yanomami area.

1975: about 500 miners invade the Surucucus mountain range, an Indian land,
looking for tin ore. The governor of the State of Roraima, Ramos Pereira,
supports the invasion and says that "a rich area cannot permit itself the
luxury of preserving half a dozen Indian tribes hindering the development."

1978: FUNAI (National Indian Foundation) signs a covenant with mining
company Vale do Rio Doce for the exploitation of tin ore in Yanomami lands.
The covenant is suspended.

1979: the appointed governor of Roraima, Ottomar de Souza Pinto, announces
as he is sworn into office that the top priority of his administration
would be to resume the mining for tin ore.

1980: the minister for Mines and Energy, Ce'sar Cals, issues licenses
authorizing two mining companies to carry out research on titanium deposits
in Yanomami lands. A group of miners is detected inside Yanomami lands
located in Amazonia.

1981: about 2,000 miners invade the area again, this time looking for gold.
Governor Ottomar Pinto insists that the formal prohibition to carry out
mining activities in these lands should be lifted. In November, eighteen
Yanomami Indians die of measles in Amazonia.

1982: five Yanomami are murdered by miners in a region near the Catrimani
and Apiau' rivers. More and more, outbreaks of diseases area registered
among the Indians.

1983: FUNAI signs with Codesaima, a company operated by the government of
Raraima, a covenant for carrying out research and mining for ores in the
Indian area.

1984: Mozarildo Cavalcanti, federal deputy for Raraima, presents a bill to
the Chamber of Deputies proposing that mining for tin ore should be
permitted in part of the area. An Yanomami is shot on the back by a miner
at the Catrimani river.

1985: 44 miners headed by businessman Jose' Altino Machado invade Surucucus
and subdue at gunpoint four army soldiers and a sargeant who were guarding
the area. They are expelled by Army, Federal Police, and Military Police
troops. After being arrested, Altino Machado says he would repeat the
operation. Soon after that, miners invade the northeast region of the
territory. Deputy Mozarildo Cavalcanti presents a bill to the Chamber of
Deputies providing for the exploitation of tin ore in Yanomami lands by
authorization of the Executive Branch.

1986: Altino Machado deposes before the Chamber of Deputies and says he
will fight for the miners to remain in the area.

1987: the Brazilian government launches a campaign affirming that the
demarcation of the Yanomami lands is a pretext for the Indians to establish
an independent state. The propaganda is an attempt to justify the
implementation of the Calha Norte Project. The military commander of the
Amazonian Region, general Antenor Santa Cruz, says that the presence of
miners in the Indian area "plays a strategic role in the occupation of the
national territory." Four Yanomami of the Paapiu' area are clubbed,
stabbed, and shot to death by miners.

1988: miners kill nine Yanomami. The ex-president of Funai, Romero Juca'
takes office as governor of Roraima and says he will ensure the security of
the 20 thousand miners who invaded the Indian area. The government cuts the
Yanomami territory into 19 discontinuous areas, one national park and two
national forests, leaving 76% of the traditional Yanomami territory out of
the demarcation. Four Indians are murdered by the invaders the following year.

1990: miners kill two Indians. The president of the Republic, Jose' Sarney,
creates the Araricoera and Catrimani-Couto Magalhanes mining reservations
inside Indian lands. The extermination of 15% of the Yanomami population,
about 2 thousand Indians, in the two previous years because of diseases
brought by the miners is denounced.

1991: the reinvasion grows. FUNAI mentions 1 thousand miners. Ottomar de
Souza Pinto takes office as the new governor of Roraima, and continues to
support the invasion.

1992: about 2 thousand miners invade the area again. At least 150 Yanomami
die of diseases. An Indian is murdered.

1993: in August, FUNAI denounces the massacre of 73 Yanomami.

Brasilia, August 27, 1993 CIMI - Indianist Missionary Council 

Louis Proyect

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