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Brazil Fears Uncontacted Tribe Massacred by Drug Traffickers

Posted on the 11 August 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Brazil fears uncontacted tribe massacred by drug traffickers

Amazon tribe shown firing arrows at helicopter.

The Brazilian government fears for the survival of an isolated tribe in the Brazilian Amazon after Peruvian drug traffickers attacked a guard post protecting the tribe in the Amazon Basin.

FUNAI, the government body responsible for the protection of Indian rights, asserts that the Panoan Indian tribe disappeared after a group of armed men moved into the area and encircled a hut containing FUNAI researchers who were observing the tribe. The researchers made it out – it is unclear from reports on the incident exactly how – but returned later to find the campsite abandoned and the tribe of around 200 people gone.

Reaserchers also found a backpack at the post belonging to one of the armed men and containing a broken arrow belonging to the tribe. Carlos Travassos, head of FUNAI’S isolated Indians division said in a statement, “The arrow head is like an identity card of the isolated Indians.” According to tribal advocacy group Survival International, the police also found 44 pounds of cocaine nearby, suggesting that the men may have been drug traffickers.

The tribe were located in Acre State, a remote part of the Brazilian rainforest though to hold up to 68 isolated tribes. Experts believe that they have had very little contact with the outside world after they were photographed firing arrows at a helicopter in 2008. As TIME mgazine suggested in its report of the incident, “The concern is the the tribe’s first contact with the so-called civilized world wasn’t all that civilized.”

And this may not be the last time tribal grounds, close to the Peruvian border, are invaded by drug traffickers. As Peru is fast becoming one of the biggest drug exporters in the world, there are fears that illegal logging and drug trafficking are endangering tribes on both sides of the border.

“We are more worried than ever. This situation could be one of the biggest blows to our work protecting isolated groups in the last decades. A catastrophe for our society. A genocide!” Carlos Travassos of FUNAI’s isolated Indians division.

  • No man’s land. In an interview with Al-Jazeera one of FUNAI’s researchers, Jose Carlos Meirelles, spoke of the difficult situation in the area. “There is massive logging on the Peru side of the border and unfortunately the Peruvian Amazon is a ‘no man’s land’ and everything is permitted.” BBC News raised concerns about the role of increased drug trafficking: “There are also reports that they could be trying to clear the area to grow coca, the plant from which cocaine is derived.”
  • Lack of acknowledgement. Wil Longbottom, writing in The Daily Mail, reported, “Alan Garcia, President of Peru until last month, had claimed the tribes did not exist – placing the Indians in a dangerous position as loggers moved into their lands.” Travassos was quoted in The Guardian discussing this issue: “Since nobody from the Brazilian state is prepared to stay here, we took the decision… to come here”, continuing “we will not [run] until something is done.”

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