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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Brazilian federal prosecutors in the state of Amazonas have filed a lawsuit against the country’s government asking for R$50 million in compensation and an official apology for the extermination of Waimiri-Atroari Indigenous tribe, also known as the Kinja, during Brazil’s military dictatorship period.

Brazil, Brasilia,Indigenous march on Presidential Palace in Brasilia
Indigenous tribes protesting at the Presidential Palace in Brasilia in recent years, photo by Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil.

“The Brazilian State sponsored the invasion of indigenous territory and the reduction of the Kinja population, adopting any measure necessary to carry out the ethnic genocide,” states the lawsuit filed.

According to prosecutors the extermination was conducted in the 1970’s so that the construction of highway BR-174, linking Manaus to Boa Vista, in the middle of the Amazon region could be constructed.

“The indigenous were seen as a hindrance to national development, with the so-called fronts of action being responsible for promoting the forced displacement from their territories,” adds the lawsuit.

According to the Commissão Nacional da Verdade (National Truth Commission) during the construction of the highway the tribe’s population was decimated, falling from 3,000 to 332 less than a decade later.

The Commission was created in September 2011 to investigate human rights violations during the military dictatorship of 1964–1985.

After more than twenty years after the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship officials in Amazonas say there is enough evidence to ‘demonstrate that the Brazilian State promoted actions based on the policies of contact and direct attacks on the Indians that caused the demographic reduction of the Waimiri-Atroari people on a large scale’ – and they want the government to apologize.

In addition to compensation and the apology, the Attorney General’s Office in Manaus requests that the Union include in its public elementary and middle schools’ curriculum information which depicts the genocide of the Waimiri-Atroari people.

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