September 27, 2020

A fire advances in the reserve where an indigenous leader was killed in Brazil

A forest fire has been spreading for two weeks in the indigenous reserve of Arariboia, in the Brazilian Amazon state of Maranhao, where a "forest guardian" was killed last Friday by alleged illegal loggers, several sources confirmed on Wednesday.

The Indigenous Missionary Council (Cimi), an agency linked to the Catholic Church, reported that six brigades fight a fire front of about 50 kilometers in length.

Zezico Guajajara, 47, and leader of the Zutiua village, inside the reserve, told Efe that the fire "is not controlled" and that only now the reinforcement of the Maranhao Government began to arrive.

"Today a Maranhao government aircraft passed over the area and bringing some men from the Fire Department," he said.

"The combat is complicated because the flames are far, more than 25 kilometers away (from the Zutiua village) and there are no roads there, it is necessary that it be done through aircraft," he completed.

In addition, he suspects that "three or four" spotlights unleashed at different points have been found and formed that great front in the territory and does not know if it has been intended.

According to Cimi, the flames spread in the direction of the territory of a group of indigenous people of the Awá-Guajá ethnic group who live voluntarily isolated.

The Government of Maranhao confirmed that several teams of the Fire Department will act in the work of extinguishing the fire at the request of the state Brazilian Institute of Environment (Ibama), the body responsible for combating and preventing such incidents.

For his part, Ibama, under the central government, reported that he sent 60 officials to the indigenous reserve and that this week he plans to send a helicopter to assist in the fight against the flames.

The Araribóia reserve, approved in 1990 and with an area of ​​413,000 hectares, is home to about 6,000 indigenous people of the Awá-Guajá, Guajajara (or Tenetehar) ethnic groups and some voluntarily isolated Awá.

This is the second fire so far this year in the Arariboia reserve, which has suffered years of attacks from land buyers ('grileiros') and illegal loggers, as reported by international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch .

Last Friday, a "guardian of the forest" from a reserve in the state of Maranhao (northeast) was shot dead in the face and another was injured, in an ambush perpetrated by suspected illegal loggers.

According to a report by the Indigenous Missionary Council (Cimi), an organization linked to the Catholic Church, invasions of indigenous lands in Brazil rose 44% in the first nine months of this year, which coincide with the time that Bolsonaro has been in power , and already exceed those registered throughout 2018.

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