On Friday, November 1, five illegal loggers shot and killed an indigenous warrior named Paulo Paulino Guajajara in an ambush, reports Reuters. The attack took place on the Araribóia reservation in the Brazilian Amazon. This attack is the latest incident in an ongoing trend of increased violence in indigenous territories in the Amazon. Many attribute these attacks to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
The number of targeted attacks and invasions of indigenous land by illegal miners and loggers continues to rise in the months following Bolsonaro’s assumption of office in January 2019. Nearly a week before the attack on November 1, The Indigenous Missionary Council released a report warning of the rising number of attacks on indigenous people. According to this report, there have been 160 attacks in 153 indigenous territories to date this year. This marks a drastic increase compared to the 111 attacks that took place during the entirety of 2018, notes the National Catholic Reporter.
Mr. Guajajara was an environmental and indigenous activist as well as a leader of the Guardians of the Forest, a group created by the Guajajara people. Established in 2012, the aim of the group is to protect the Guajajara people and their land from miners and loggers. The Guajajara comprise a majority of Brazil’s indigenous population.
According to The New York Times, members of the Guajajara community voiced their concerns over the increasing number of attacks by illegal loggers to the Brazilian government in April, asking for protection. Brazil’s head of human rights conveyed their message to the federal police in August. However, two months later, loggers stabbed and killed one of the leaders of the Wajapi Indigenous community.
Following this incident, loggers then killed governmental official Maxciel Pareira dos Santos in early September. Santos worked at the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), a government body aimed at protecting indigenous people, reports The Telegraph. FUNAI and the Guardians of the Forest are just two of the many groups committed to conserving the Amazon and the indigenous lands within the vast rainforest.
The Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation, the governing head of many of Brazil’s indigenous and environmental rights organizations, directly blames Bolsonaro and his government for the violent attacks against indigenous people in the Amazon. The APIB and other organizations attribute the attacks to Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and his support for the logging industry. When speaking about the president, Beto Marubo, an indigenous activist and liaison for the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley, stated to National Geographic “He doesn’t authorize the violence…but the way he speaks is the same thing as authorizing it.”
APIB continues to issue statements reflecting Marubo’s sentiments. In their response to the death of Mr. Guajajara, APIB said that Bolsonaro and his government had “indigenous blood” on their hands, reports Al Jazeera.
Environmental and indigenous activists began the fight to protect indigenous people and curb deforestation long before Bolsonaro’s presidency. However, with the increasing number of attacks coupled with the mass fires in the Amazon propagated by Bolsonaro, these groups and their message of peace and environmental protection now receive more international attention than ever before.