Brazil’s indigenous communities fear mining threat over war in Ukraine
Maurício Ye’kwana worries about the future. He comes from the community of Auaris, in northern Brazil, close to the border with Venezuela.
The area, part of the Yanomami Indigenous Territory, is rich in gold, diamonds and minerals – and illegal miners want a piece of it. In all, there are an estimated 20,000 illegal miners on the land.
“It’s got worse in the past few years,” Maurício says, explaining that during the pandemic, the number of planes, helicopters and boats linked to illegal mining increased.
He’s only 35, but it’s the younger generation that concerns him – boys increasingly being lured into illegal work.
“The young people are the best boat drivers,” he says. They can earn as much as 10,000 Brazilian reais ($2,140; £1,645) for a single trip.
Maurício has come to Brasilia to take part in the Free Land Camp, an annual event that brings together indigenous communities looking to defend their land rights.
On Brasilia’s main esplanade, a grand avenue that leads to Congress and the presidential palace, communities from across the country have erected hundreds of tents.
Milling around the camp are indigenous Brazilians, many of them wearing feathered headdresses, intricate beaded jewellery and painted with geometric tattoos identifying their tribe.
This year, the event has taken on an even bigger meaning.
President Jair Bolsonaro has made it his mission to push economic development in the Amazon. In his latest attempt to make inroads into indigenous territories, he has cited the war in Ukraine. Brazil relies heavily on imported fertilisers for its agribusiness industry – more than 90% of its fertilisers come from abroad, and Russia is its most important partner.
“A good opportunity arose for us,” Mr Bolsonaro said of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He has argued that by mining in indigenous territories, Brazil can build more of its own potassium reserves.
It’s an argument questioned by some experts.
“Only 11% of the reserves are inside indigenous lands and other states like São Paulo and Minas have reserves,” says politician Joenia Wapichana, the first indigenous woman voted into Congress in 2018. “It’s a false narrative that tries to confuse the minds of the Brazilians, making them believe it’s important, that people won’t have food on their table.”
Also, it’s not a short-term fix.
“From a technological and environmental perspective, the licences needed and the infrastructure – it all takes time. Being able to offer these products to the Brazilian market would probably take seven to 10 years,” says Suzi Huff, Prof of Geology at the University of Brasilia. “We’re talking about an extremely sensitive area in which care needs to be taken. It’s false to say that it will solve Brazil’s problems.”
The bill has been in the works since 2020. But last month, the lower house voted to consider it under emergency provisions, removing the need for committee debates.
“It’s very clearly blackmail,” says Prof Huff. “Bolsonaro saw an opportunity to continue with this project of allowing mineral exploration including in indigenous lands and used the scarcity of fertilisers in Brazil to move forward with this project.”
It was expected to be voted on in the lower house this week, but that hasn’t happened – and few believe, in this election year, that it will. Not even the big players in the industry agree with it, with the Brazilian Institute of Mining last month saying it was a bill “not suitable for its intended purposes”, and calling for broader debate.
While a delay in voting is seen as a relief by indigenous leaders, it’s still a challenge on the ground.
“A fiery political discourse encourages invasions in indigenous lands,” says Joenia Wapichana. “The fact that Bolsonaro says he supports mining, that he will regulate mining in indigenous lands already exposes the indigenous people and makes them more vulnerable.”
The discourse is, of course, deeply political, especially with elections around the corner. On Tuesday, former president Lula da Silva – and the man leading in the polls to win October’s vote – made a visit to the camp.
“Today the headlines are about a government that doesn’t have scruples when it comes to offending and attacking the indigenous communities who are already on this land,” he said.
The response was huge cheers of “out with Bolsonaro” – but there are still six months until the elections. And this is Brazil – much can change in politics here, and the future of Brazil’s indigenous tribes is more uncertain than ever.
Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-61093258
Pedro I: Emperor’s embalmed heart arrives in Brazil
The embalmed heart of Brazil’s first emperor, Dom Pedro I, has arrived in the capital Brasilia to mark 200 years of independence from Portugal.
The heart, which lies preserved in a flask filled with formaldehyde, was flown on board a military plane from Portugal.
It will be received with military honours before going on public display at the foreign ministry.
The heart will be returned to Portugal after Brazil’s independence day.
Portuguese officials gave the go-ahead for the preserved organ to be moved from the city of Porto for the celebrations of Brazil’s bicentenary.
The organ arrived on a Brazilian air force plane accompanied by the mayor of Porto, Rui Moreira.
Mayor Moreira said it would return to Portugal after having basked “in the admiration of the Brazilian people”.
“The heart will be received like a head of state, it will be treated as if Dom Pedro I was still living amongst us,” Brazil foreign ministry’s chief of protocol Alan Coelho de Séllos said.
There will be a cannon salute, a guard of honour and full military honours.
“The national anthem [will be played] and the independence anthem, which by the way was composed by Dom Pedro I, who as well as an emperor was a good musician in his spare time,” Mr Séllos said.
Dom Pedro was born in 1798 into Portugal’s royal family, which at the time also ruled over Brazil. The family fled to the then-Portuguese colony to evade Napoleon’s invading army.
When Dom Pedro’s father, King John VI, returned to Portugal in 1821, he left the 22-year-old to rule Brazil as regent.
A year later, the young regent defied the Portuguese parliament, which wanted to keep Brazil as a colony, and rejected its demand that he return to his home country.
On 7 September 1822 he issued Brazil’s declaration of independence and was soon after crowned emperor.
He returned to Portugal to fight for his daughter’s right to accede to the Portuguese throne and died aged 35 of tuberculosis.
On his deathbed, the monarch asked that his heart be removed from his body and taken to the city of Porto, where it is kept in an altar in the church of Our Lady of Lapa.
His body was transferred to Brazil in 1972 to mark the 150th anniversary of independence and has been kept in a crypt in São Paulo.
Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-62561928
Homes engulfed as deadly landslide hits Colombia
A landslide triggered by heavy rains has killed at least 14 people in central Colombia, officials say.
Another 35 people were now in hospital after several homes were engulfed in the Dosquebradas municipality, Risaralda province, on Tuesday.
The officials issued a photo showing a gash in the lush foliage covering a mountain overlooking the area.
Other residents living close to a swollen river nearby have been moved to safety.
Rescue teams have been searching in the mud for more survivors, Colombia’s disaster management officials said.
“A very loud noise scared us. We went out and saw a piece of the mountain on top of the houses,” taxi driver Dubernei Hernandez told the AFP news agency.
“I went to that place and it was a disaster, with people trapped.”
Mr Hernandez said he helped dig up two bodies and a survivor. At least five homes were buried by the mud, he added.
There are fears that the death toll will rise further.
Landslides are common in Colombia and houses built on steep hillsides are at particular risk during the country’s rainy season.
In 2019, at least 28 people were killed after a landslide hit the south-western Cauca province.
Two years earlier, more than 250 people were killed when a landslide hit the town of Mocoa, in the southern Putumayo province.
Mexico violence: Third journalist killed this year
A Mexican journalist has been shot dead in the northern border city of Tijuana, officials say, the third journalist to be killed in the country this year.
Lourdes Maldonado López, who had decades of experience, was attacked in her car as she arrived home on Sunday.
She had previously said she feared for her life, and was enrolled in a scheme to protect journalists, activists said.
The country is one of the world’s most dangerous for journalists, and dozens have been killed in recent years.
Many of those targeted covered corruption or powerful drug cartels. Campaigners say the killings are rarely fully investigated, with impunity virtually the norm.
The motive for Maldonado’s killing was not clear and no-one has been arrested.
During a news conference in 2019, Maldonado asked President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for his “support, help and labour justice” because, she said, “I fear for my life”.
She was referring to a labour dispute with Jaime Bonilla, who was elected governor of Baja California state later that year as a candidate from the president’s Morena party. Mr Bonilla, who left office late last year, owns the PSN media outlet, which had employed Maldonado.
Maldonado had sued the company for unfair dismissal and, last week, said she had won the lawsuit after a nine-year legal battle. Mr Bonilla and PSN have not commented.
Rights group Article 19 said she had previously been attacked because of her work and was registered in the Mexican government’s programme to protect journalists.
The campaign group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was “shocked” by the murder.
The killing came six days after photojournalist Margarito Martínez was shot dead outside his home in Tijuana. He covered crime in the city, with his work appearing in national and foreign media.
A week earlier, José Luis Gamboa Arenas was found dead with stab wounds in the eastern city of Veracruz. An editor at the Inforegio and La Notícia news websites, he often wrote articles about organised crime and violence.
Exact numbers of victims are hard to come by as investigations often get nowhere, and different studies apply different criteria in counting the dead.
According to Article 19, 24 journalists were killed between December 2018, when President López Obrador took office, and the end of 2021.
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