Brazil’s indigenous peoples, already targeted by loggers, face a powerful foe in the new president. We must protect them
On 1 January, Jair Bolsonaro will be sworn in as Brazil’s 38th president. He has expressed open disdain for the indigenous peoples of Brazil, and it is no exaggeration to say that some of the world’s most unique and diverse tribes are facing annihilation. Genocide is defined by the UN as “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. Large-scale mass genocides rightly receive global attention, yet countless others go unreported and unpunished because the victims number only a few hundred, or even a few dozen.
Right now, deep in the Amazon rainforest, a small tribe of survivors is on the run. They are the Kawahiva, an uncontacted tribe of just a few dozen people, the victims of waves of horrific attacks which have pushed them to the brink of extinction. We know almost nothing about them, except that they are fleeing chainsaws in a region with the highest rate of deforestation in the Amazon. Brazil’s first ever investigation into the genocide of an uncontacted tribe was launched in 2005, and 29 people suspected of involvement in killing Kawahiva were detained but later released, including a former state governor and a senior policeman. The case stalled for lack of evidence.
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