Aug 5, 2019
Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.
Emyra, the head of the Wayapi people in Brazil, was murdered by a band of gold miners on July 23. They also occupied the village and kicked out the inhabitants. Even though police were sent to investigate, many view the crime as a consequence of Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s policy of treating Indians as parasites who block the modern and profitable exploitation of natural resources.
The Wayapi live in the mountains at the northern border of Brazil’s state of Amapá. The region has lots of gold and attracts gold prospectors called garimpeiros, desperate people ready to do anything in the hope of striking gold. They bring the Indians violence, prostitution, deadly measles outbreaks, and pollution of the rivers with mercury. They take over territory by terrorizing and hunting the Indians, killing those who resist or who might resist.
But the prospectors are only the first wave of colonizers. Once an area is cleared of its Indians and the gold veins are exhausted, then the serious operators show up. Loggers cut down and haul away valuable lumber, clearing the native forest and making room for cattle ranching or soybean and sugar cane plantations. For these agribusiness capitalists and gold diggers, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
The process of expropriating and exterminating Indian survivors of the Portuguese Conquest of Brazil has gone on since the rubber boom of the late 1800s. Soldiers during the dictatorship of the generals facilitated it by building a highway across the Amazon rainforest. The return to civilian government in 1985 and the coming to power of the Workers Party in 2002 did not stop it. Far from opposing deforestation, Workers Party President Lula went so far as to call the Amazon sugar cane plantation landlords heroes.
Today Bolsonaro only adds his cynical frankness to this policy. The few institutions said to protect the Indians have never protected them or their land from the intrusions of capitalist predators.