The Brazilian government has launched a campaign to drive thousands of illegal miners from the country's largest Indigenous reserve, with special-forces environmental operatives destroying aircraft and seizing weapons and boats during an operation deep in the Amazon's Yanomami territory.
The long-awaited operation began on Monday with troops establishing a base along the Uraricoera River with support from the Indigenous agency Funai and the newly-created ministry for Indigenous peoples. Wildcat tin ore and gold miners use the waterway as well as dozens of illegal airstrips to reach and supply their illegal outposts in the Yanomami lands.
In a statement on Wednesday lunchtime, Brazil s government said that the environmental squad destroyed a helicopter, an airplane and a bulldozer used by mining mafias to drive clandestine roads through the region's jungles.
Footage of the raid showed the chassis of a helicopter that was smoldering near a patch of rainforest after it was torched by Ibama agents in order to prevent it being used again.
In December of this year, the Guardian documented the existence of an illegal 75 mile road to chaos through Yanomami lands during a flyover with Indigenous activist S nia Guajajara, who was weeks later made Brazil's first minister for Indigenous peoples.
On Tuesday night, Guajajara said that the new government of leftist president Luiz In cio Lula da Silva was determined to protect the 30,000 Yanomami people living in Brazil from what authorities have called a genocide. We are going to give them this. In the 1970s and 80s, illegal goldminers, known as garimpeiros, began pouring onto Yanomami lands after the military dictatorship of 1964 -- 85 urged impoverished Brazilians to populate a region they claimed foreign powers tried to seize.
The government took action after a global outcry by Prince Charles condemning the collective genocide of the Yanomami. In the early 1990s, tens of thousands of miners were removed from Yanomami lands during a security operation called Selva Livre Jungle Liberation Brazil's then president, Fernando Collor de Mello, created a supposedly protected 9.6 m-hectare territory for the Yanomami, which exists to this day.
After the election of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro in 2018, the assault rekindled, as he publicly railed against how such a large expanse of mineral-rich land had been set aside for the indigenous group.
During Bolsonaro's four-year administration, during which Amazon deforestation soared and the environmental and indigenous agencies were enfeebled, about 25,000 miners are estimated to have flocked into the Yanomami territory near the border with Venezuela, bringing violence and disease.
In a recent interview, Yanomami leader J nior Hekurari said it was a government of blood.
Lula's new government, which began on January 1, has vowed to reserve Bolsonaro era policies that caused havoc for Brazil's environment and Indigenous communities.
We will put a stop to illegal mining. The veteran leftist told the Guardian last year that it can't be simply through a law, it must be a profession of faith.
On Wednesday afternoon, several top ministers, including the defense chief, Jos M cio, touched down in the Amazon city of Boa Vista the nearest to the Yanomami territory to watch the start of the crackdown.