Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has called for urgent action to help the country’s indigenous Yanomami group, according to a government statement released on Monday.
Living conditions for the relatively isolated Yanomani have deteriorated precipitously, with more than 570 deaths from starvation in the past four years, according to CNN Brasil.
The Brazilian government’s new plan will aim to provide nutritional and health assistance to the Yanomami and ensure security in the territory, where illegal miners and trespassers have caused deforestation and are accused of spreading disease and blocking movement.
The operation – which will rely on the Brazilian Ministries of Justice, Defence, Indigenous Peoples and Mining – also aims to guarantee access to drinking water through wells and cisterns, and to measure the mercury pollution in local waterways, another consequence of illegal mining operations.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health declared a public health emergency in the region on January 20. The announcement was quickly followed by a visit by Lula to Yanomami territory – one of the Brazilian president’s first official trips since taking office earlier this year.
Separately, Justice Minister Flavio Dino told CNN Brasil that his ministry was opening an investigation to determine whether the actions of the previous government under Jair Bolsonaro constituted “genocide” by the Yanomami.
Former pro-business leader Bolsonaro has openly encouraged development in the Amazon. He, too, visited Yanomani territory as president, telling a community he would respect their wishes for no mining, but throughout his term he cut funding to mining agencies. state to prevent illegal mining, logging and ranching.
The Yanomami live in the rainforests and mountains of northern Brazil and southern Venezuela, according to Survival International, an organization that seeks to protect indigenous rights.
In 2020, the Brazilian Socio-Environmental Institute warned that the coronavirus was being spread among the Yanomami by minors who entered the indigenous territory illegally.
“Today, without a doubt, the main vector for the spread of COVID-19 inside the Yanomami indigenous territory is the more than 20,000 illegal miners who enter and leave the territory without any control,” the ISA said. in a statement posted on its website. at the time.