By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Rumors of a massacre of indigenous in an isolated tribe in the heart of the Amazon forest has led the Brazilian government to launch an investigation into the actions of gold miners in the region.
The federal prosecutor’s office in Amazonas state, however, after international commotion about the case, recanted their earlier statement confirming the deaths, and saying that ‘no material evidence has been found to substantiate the alleged massacre’.
The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) in Amazonas corrects the information wrongly passed on by its communications department to a reporter of (local news agency) Amazonia Real and informs that there is no confirmation of deaths of isolated Indians in the Amazon,” read the note issued by the MPF on Monday, September 11th.
The area where the massacre is said to have taken place is located deep in the Amazon jungle near the Peruvian border, about 1000km from Amazonas state capital, Manaus.
The rumors of the attack spread came after miners in the municipality of São Paulo de Olivença, were overheard by FUNAI employees boasting about the attack. Accoding to agency officials the miners were arrested and taken to Tabatinga for questioning.
The story quickly caught the attention of foreign correspondents who cover Brazil. The MPF fueled the discussion by confirming that the deaths occurred, when investigators were still trying to get to the location of the alleged attack. Due to the
Groups working with indigenous communities speculate that the possible attack may have come after miners were ordered off the region. At the end of August an operation led by government agencies to combat illegal mining resulted in the destruction by the Brazilian Army of mining equipment owned by these illegal miners and a fine of more than R$1 million for environmental crimes.
Today in Brazil there are 453 indigenous territories already regularized by the government and another 127 in process of demarcation. In all, the 2010 Brazilian Census showed that more than 810,000 indigenous live in the country today.
These areas, however, may be in danger of being significantly reduced. The government of President Michel Temer has recently proposed to reduce the size of the protected area in the Amazon region and has hinted it plans to allow mining and development in some of the area.
In addition, FUNAI, the government agency in charge of protecting indigenous territory and rights has seen its budget drastically cut this year.