Brazil's Yanomami should be evicted, Indigenous Health Secretary says

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Brazil's Yanomami should be evicted, Indigenous Health Secretary says

BRASILIA - Brazil s military should evict illegal gold miners who have caused malnutrition and starvation in a region of the Yanomami reservation near the Venezuelan border, Indigenous Health Secretary Weibe Tapeba said on Tuesday.

Tapeba, a doctor appointed by Brazil s new government to the position, said in a radio interview that it looks like a concentration camp.

Tapeba said 700 members of the community were going hungry and healthcare isn't effective due to the presence of well-armed gold miners that scared away medical workers from the health post and blocked people from bringing in supplies of medicine and food.

The ministry of health of Brazil declared a medical emergency in the Yanomami territory, the country's largest indigenous reservation, after reports of children dying of malnutrition and other diseases brought by gold mining.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visited the state on Saturday after the publication of photos showing Yanomami children and elderly people so thin their ribs were visible.

It is an extreme calamity, many Yanomami are suffering from malnutrition and there is a total absence of the Brazilian state, Tapeba said.

An invasion by more than 20,000 wildcat gold miners has contaminated the rivers with mercury that has poisoned the fish the Yanomami eat, he said. Children with their hair falling out due to the mercury used to separate gold from ore.

Health teams can't get here because of the heavily armed bandits. He said that this can only be resolved by removing the gold miners and that can only be done by the armed forces.

Brazil's Supreme Court ordered the removal of the gold miners. The previous government of the far-right President Jair Bolsonaro didn't complie. Yanomami leaders said their pleas for help were ignored.

In the four years of Bolsonaro's presidency, 570 Yanomami children died of curable diseases, mainly malnutrition but also malaria, diarrhea and malformations caused by mercury in the rivers, according to Sumauma, the Amazon journalism platform.

The reservation has been invaded by illegal gold miners for decades but the incursions have increased since Bolsonaro won office in 2018 and promised to allow mining on previously protected indigenous lands and legalize wildcat mining.

Justice Minister Flavio Dino said on Monday that there was evidence of genocide being investigated.

In December, Survival International warned about the extent of the crisis, citing a study by UNICEF and Brazil s FioCruz biomedical research center that found that 8 out of 10 Yanomami had chronic malnutrition, and deaths from preventable diseases among children under five were 13 times more than the national average.

In normal circumstances, the Yanomami do not suffer from malnutrition. Survival International director Fiona Watson said that their forests are bountiful and they are experts at growing, gathering and hunting everything they need, and they enjoy excellent health.

This is a deliberate, man-made crisis, fuelled by President Bolsonaro, who has encouraged the mass invasion and destruction of the Yanomami lands, she said.