Brazilian authorities are investigating the murder of an indigenous leader in the northern state of Amapá, in the Amazon region, where violence has escalated since a group of 50 gold miners — 13 of them reportedly heavily armed — allegedly invaded the Wajãpi indigenous reserve.
On the morning of Tuesday 23rd July, indigenous chief Emyra Wajãpi was found dead, stabbed close to the Waseity indigenous village where he lived, according to the Wajãpi Village Council (Apina). His death was not witnessed by any Wajãpi, Apina said in a statement.
On the night of Friday 26th July, a group of non-indigenous men armed with rifles and machine guns reportedly invaded the neighboring Yvytotõ indigenous village and threatened residents, which forced them to flee to the nearby Mariry indigenous village, according to Apina.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who had not commented on the killing and invasion until Monday 29th July, told the Folha de São Paulo newspaper then that “there is no strong evidence” that the indigenous leader was murdered: “I will seek to unravel the case and show the truth about that,” Bolsonaro said.
Mr Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has promised to integrate indigenous people into the rest of the population and questioned the existence of their protected territories, which are rights guaranteed in the country's Constitution.
The president has also criticised the environmental protection agency, Ibama, and accused the national space institute, Inpe, of lying about the scale of deforestation in the Amazon.
Activists say the relaxation of the protections could lead to greater deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and threaten the existence of indigenous people.