On the eve of the Brazilian elections, the government of Jair Bolsonaro came under official criticism in a document to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in September.
The report, by Rapporteur Marcos Orellana, denounces how the government’s behavior has in practice encouraged the illegal actions of miners in the Amazon. The rapporteur is responsible for examining the impact of environmental measures on human rights, and this year’s report is devoted to the impact of mercury and mining.
“The lack of effective protection and safeguards for damage caused by small-scale gold mining using mercury exposes structural racism against indigenous peoples,” the document warns.
Despite mentioning cases in different parts of the world, the report presents direct accusations against the government of Jair Bolsonaro and highlights the consequences when the Executive’s projects turn into a sense of impunity for the perpetrators.
“Brazil claims to have mercury restrictions and legal provisions to protect indigenous peoples, even as it tries to return to current standards and open up indigenous lands to gold mining and other mining industries,” he says. “This has led to a culture of impunity among the garimpeiros who believe they have government support,” he said. The rapporteur is referring to bills from the government base trying to legalize mining in local and protected areas.
Reports discussed at the Human Rights Council cannot be immediately translated into action. However, the report promises to further increase the country’s international restraint on issues such as the protection of indigenous peoples and the environment.
Reports and analyzes by international organizations have also contributed to the deepening of the country’s pariah status, which it has begun to practice in recent years, and has questioned the Bolsonaro government’s adherence to some of the main human rights consensuses.
Contamination and Disposal
According to him, miners’ pressure on protected lands affects the most remote indigenous peoples through direct contact, destruction of habitat and food resources, and contamination of river fish.
“Recent research with Munduruku indigenous peoples in Brazil’s Pará State detected mercury in all hair samples analyzed from 200 individuals, without exception, men and women, adults (including the elderly) and children,” the report states.
“The highest levels of mercury contamination were reported in the villages closest to small-scale gold mining activities. People with the highest levels of contamination had a higher frequency of neurological symptoms, such as changes in tactile and pain in motor and memory,” states the document.
According to him, the rate of deforestation due to gold mining in the Kayapó region has doubled since 2000. “While mining on indigenous land in Brazil is illegal, indigenous peoples say this does not stop the widespread occupation of their land by the garimpeiros.” Recalling that a study by Funai (Fundação Nacional do Índio) identified about 3,000 indigenous peoples contaminated with mineral deposits.
The report also touches on how nearly 1,000 Yanomami lived in shared homes in Palimiú, a village on the banks of the Uraricoera River, in Brazil’s largest indigenous reserve. The site can only be reached by boat or light plane. “In May 2021, multiple boats operated by miners opened fire on the Yanomami tribe on the riverbank with automatic weapons. Villagers responded with arrows and hunting rifles. Both sides were injured and two young miners drowned in the chaos. The miners threaten to return to take revenge,” he said. .
“The next day, police arrived and the miners came back by boat, firing at federal agents and firing them in counterattacks. Prosecutors in the state of Roraima believe the miners may have held one of the largest criminal gangs in Brazil – known as the Capital’s First Command, which has smuggling routes in the area – terrorizing the local population. To do this,” the document was underlined.
Called Itamaraty did not respond on the content of the report and whether it could refute the accusations at the UN Human Rights Council’s meeting, which will begin on September 12.