DATE: November 2, 2019
SNIP: A young indigenous Guajajara leader was murdered reportedly by loggers Friday in the Brazilian Amazon, raising concerns about escalating violence against forest protectors under the government of President Jair Bolsonaro.
Paulo Paulino Guajajara, 26-years-old, was shot in the head and killed in an ambush in the Araribóia Indigenous Reserve, in the Northeast state of Maranhão, indigenous chief Olímpio Iwyramu Guajajara confirmed to Mongabay. The murder was also confirmed on Friday night by Mídia Índia, a collective of indigenous communicators of various ethnicities.
Paulo was a member of “Guardians of the Forest,” a group of 120 indigenous Guajajara that risk their lives fighting illegal logging in the Araribóia reserve, one of the country’s most threatened indigenous territories. The Guardians also act to protect the Awá Guajá people, an uncontacted group of hunter-gatherers described by NGO Survival International as the most threatened indigenous group on the planet.
Indigenous leader Laércio Guajajara, also a “Guardian,” was hit by two grazing shots in his back and his arm during the ambush, but was able to escape the scene and was later taken to a hospital, the chief said. According to Olímpio, all three have been threatened by loggers over the past several months.
Violence against indigenous peoples has escalated in Brazil over recent years, making it one of the most dangerous nations on earth for indigenous and environmental activists: 135 indigenous people were murdered in 2018, an increase of almost 23 percent from 2017, according to a report released last month by Brazil’s Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI).
The report also included preliminary data for 2019, noting 160 cases of land invasion, illegal exploitation of natural resources, and damage to property in 153 indigenous territories during the first nine months of the Bolsonaro administration. These figures mark a significant increase from 2018, when 111 incidents of these types were reported in just 76 indigenous territories over the entire year, according to CIMI.
The Guardians group was established late in 2012 and has since destroyed some 200 illegal logging camps within the indigenous reserve, according to Olímpio. He said the situation in Araribóia has worsened under the new government.