Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday there is no “strong evidence” that a tribal chief found dead in the Amazon was murdered, as police probe the killing in the remote region.
Police are also investigating reports that a group of heavily-armed miners, known as garimpeiros, on Friday overran a village in the same area of the northern state of Amapa controlled by the Waiapi tribe - three days after the indigenous leader's body was found in a river.
Rich in gold, manganese, iron and copper, the Waiapi's territory is deep inside the Amazon, which has faced growing pressure from miners, ranchers and loggers under far-right Bolsonaro. On Saturday he called for the first world to help exploit the absurd quantity of minerals in the rainforest.
After reports of the violence emerged Saturday, members of the federal police and a military police special forces unit were dispatched, the Amapa attorney general's office said, arriving in the village some 300 kilometers from the state capital Macapa on Sunday.
”We are working with several theories (on the murder). It is possible that the crime was carried out by garimpeiros, by hunters or even by other indigenous people, Amapa chief prosecutor Rodolfo Soares Ribeiro Lopes told Brazil's National Radio.
But Bolsonaro told reporters Monday the information so far shows no strong evidence that this Indian was murdered.
He also said small-scale mining, or garimpo, should be legalized and indigenous people allowed to mine their own land, instead of being jailed like a zoo animal.
NGOs from other countries don't want that. They want Indians to remain jailed like a zoo animal, as if they were a pre-historic human, Bolsonaro said.
The Waiapi's territory is one of hundreds Brazil's government demarcated in the 1980s for the exclusive use of its 800,000 indigenous inhabitants. Access by outsiders is strictly regulated.
Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has been accused of harming the Amazon and indigenous tribes in order to benefit his supporters in the logging, mining and farming industries.
We are experiencing a real environmental psychosis,” Bolsonaro said recently.