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Brazil’s Attorney General Denounces “Genocide” of Indians

September 12, 1990

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) _ The Yanomami Indians, the world’s largest primitive tribe, are in grave danger of being wiped out by miners who covet their land, says Brazil’s attorney general.

″It is necessary to put an end to the genocide and punish those responsible,″ the official, Aristides Junqueira, said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

Last week, two Yanomamis were murdered by gold miners. Junquiera has ordered that the killers be brought to justice under a special law that aims to protect Indians.

Yanomami villages are located in a 22 million-acre reserve that has repeatedly been invaded by miners searching for gold, diamonds and other minerals.

About 1,500 of the remaining 9,000 Yanomami have been killed during the past three years in armed clashes with miners or after being stricken by contagious diseases brought in by the intruders, according to officials.

Last week’s murders occurred on reserve land in the northwestern Amazon state of Roraima. A 12-year-old Indian boy was badly wounded.

The Indian Missionary Council, which is linked to the Roman Catholic Church, said three miners were also killed during the attacks.

The clashes reportedly broke out when the miners accused the Yanomamis of stealing supplies from their camp.

Junqueira said justice demands that ″those responsible (for the Indians’ deaths) are found, whoever they are.″

The attorney general ordered federal police to investigate last week’s attacks at the Yanomami villages of Olomai and Romuche, near the border with Venezuela almost 4,000 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro.

Junqueira asked that a special law be applied in the case, which carries a prison term of 12 to 30 years for anyone found guilty of involvement in the ″genocide″ of Indians.

The attorney general also said he would seek to revoke decrees passed by the former government of Jose Sarney, which established three mining reserves inside Indian territory.

He said he intended to press President Fernando Collor de Mello, who took office in March, to upholds his pledge to protect the Yanomamis.

″The theme of violence against Indian peoples, especially the Yanomami, has been treated with great patience, which is now ending,″ the attorney general said.

Collor has ordered the dynamiting of about 20 clandestine jungle landing strips used by the miners. He has also pledged other measures to prevent attacks on the Indians.

However, some Catholic officials who work with the Indians say Collor is mainly interested in public relations.

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