BRASILIA (Reuters) – Illegal loggers in the Amazon attacked an indigenous group set up to protect the forest, shot a young warrior, and wounded another, said Guajajara tribe leaders in northern Brazil on Saturday.
FILE PHOTO: Paulo Paulino Guajajara was hunting on Friday, November 1
Paulo Guajajara or Lobo (in Portuguese "wolf") hunted on Friday in the Arariboia Reserve in the state of Maranhao, when he was attacked and shot in the head. Another Guajajara, Laercio, was wounded but escaped, they said.
The fight is taking place more and more frequently as illegal lumberjacks and miners have become more and more worried since President Jair Bolsonaro took office this year and has opened up protected indigenous areas for economic development.
"The Bolsonaro government has indigenous blood in its hands," said the pan-indigenous Brazilian organization APIB, which represents many of the country's 900,000 indigenous peoples, in a statement on Saturday.
"The increase in violence in indigenous areas is a direct result of his hate speech and action against our people," APIB said.
APIB leader Sonia Guajajara said the government is dismantling environmental and indigenous organizations and leaving tribes behind to defend themselves against their country's invasion.
"It's time to say enough about this institutionalized genocide," she said in a post on Twitter.
The Brazilian Federal Police said they had sent a team to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Paulino Guajajara. APIB said his body was still in the forest where he was killed.
The Guajajaras, one of the largest indigenous groups in Brazil with about 20,000 inhabitants, founded the Guardians of the Forest here in 2012 to patrol a huge protected area. The area is so large that a small and endangered tribe, the Awá Guajá, lives deep in the forest, out of contact with the outside world.
Paulino Guajajara, in his mid-twenties, left a son and told Reuters in an interview here on the reserve site in September that protecting the forest from intruders had become a dangerous task, but his people could not give in to fear.
"Sometimes I'm scared, but we have to lift our heads and act, we fight here," he said as he and other warriors prepared to move through the forest towards a lumberjack camp.
"We protect our land and life on it, the animals, the birds, even the Awá, who are also here, "said Paulino Guajajara at the time." There is so much destruction of nature, good trees whose wood is as hard as steel "We must save this life for the future of our children," he said.
Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Leo Benassatto; Editing Bernadette Baum