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Brazil: Lula accuses his predecessor of genocide against Yanomami in Amazon

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva looks on as he visits the Yanomami Indigenous Health House (CASA Yanomami) in Boa Vista, Roraima state, Brazil, on January 21, 2023. (Reuters Photo)

Brazil’s newly-elected president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has accused the administration of his far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, of committing genocide against the Yanomami people of the Amazon.

Lula visited the Amazon state of Roraima on Saturday to appraise himself of the plight of the country’s largest Indigenous community, whose supposedly protected lands have been plunged into crisis due to government neglect and the explosion of illegal mining.

“More than a humanitarian crisis, what I saw in Roraima was a genocide. A premeditated crime against the Yanomami, committed by a government impervious to the suffering of the Brazilian people,” Lula tweeted on Sunday, after visiting an overcrowded clinic for Yanomami patients in Roraima’s capital, Boa Vista.

Lula’s justice minister, Flávio Dino, said he would order a federal police investigation into “strong indications” the Yanomami had suffered crimes including genocide – meaning the deliberate attempt to partially or completely destroy an ethnic, national, racial or religious group.

Horrifying photographs of emaciated Yanomami children and adults emerged on the eve of Lula’s trip, laying bare the scale of the health crisis facing the territory’s estimated 30,000 Indigenous inhabitants.

“The photos really shook me because it’s impossible to understand how a country like Brazil neglects our Indigenous citizens to such an extent,” the leftist president was quoted as telling the reporters.

Lula, who took office on January 1, blamed his far-right predecessor for forsaking Indigenous communities and emboldening the thousands of wildcat miners who rushed to the Yanomami enclave during Bolsonaro’s four-year tenure.

The miners who occupied the Yanomami lands contaminated rivers and wrecked forests, depriving remote Yanomami communities of key food while simultaneously spreading disease and hampering the efforts of government health workers.

“As well as the disregard and neglect of the last government, the main cause of this genocide is the invasion of 20,000 illegal miners whose presence was encouraged by the ex-president," Lula wrote.

"These miners poison rivers with mercury, causing destruction and death,” he hastened to add, pledging there "will be no more genocides.”

Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff also took to Twitter to lash out at Bolsonaro. 

“There is a motive: the greed of the miners who invaded their lands. And there is a perpetrator: Jair Bolsonaro, who championed this invasion and denied medical assistance to the Indigenous," he wrote.

“All of those who are responsible, Bolsonaro included, must be prosecuted, judged and punished for genocide.”

Bolsonaro denied his participation in genocide, calling the accusation against him false and claiming that the issue of the healthcare of the Indigenous peoples of Brazil, including the Yanomami, had been one of his far-right government's main priorities.

Brazil’s Minister of Indigenous Peoples, Sonia Guajajara, who was appointed to the post earlier this month, said that protecting the Yanomami children from outrageous levels of malaria, verminosis, malnutrition and diarrhea was her absolute priority.

“Every 72 hours a child is dying from one of these illnesses, according to the information we’ve received,” Guajajara said, insisting that the miners must exit the Yanomami enclave in the next three months.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s Supreme Court is set to investigate the ultra-right-wing former president on a slew of charges.

Bolsonaro was a key ally of former US president Donald Trump, and many drew parallels between him and Trump after he disputed the election result. 

Bolsonaro has long admired Trump and was among the last world leaders to recognize Biden's victory.


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