Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva Tuesday pledged to halt all illegal gold mining -locally known as garimpo- at Indigenous reserves in the country's northeast if he is elected back into office in October.
Lula Tuesday visited a protest camp in Brasilia where several thousand members of 200 Indigenous tribes had gathered to oppose President Jair Bolsonaro's plans to allow commercial agriculture, mining, and oil exploration on their lands.
“Everything this government has decreed against Indigenous peoples must be repealed immediately,” said Lula. “Nobody did more for Indigenous people than our Workers’ Party governments, and now everything has been dismantled by this unscrupulous government,” he went on.
Illegal mining has soared in the Amazon as gold prices have surged in recent years and mining destroyed a record 125sq km (48sq miles) of the Brazilian Amazon last year.
“Lula, we are unprotected. Our rights are being trampled on,” said Joenia Wapichana, the country's only Indigenous representative in Congress. She also denounced illegal occupations of protected Indigenous lands were being legalized and wildcat miners were invading reservations where they destroy forests and pollute rivers.
Illegal mining rose 46 percent on the vast Yanomami reservation last year as high gold prices and tacit support from Bolsonaro set off a gold rush, bringing disease, violence, and rights abuses, a report published Monday said.
Illegal miners with links to organized crime are suspected of being involved in numerous abuses against Indigenous communities, including poisoning rivers with the mercury used to separate gold from sediment and also violent attacks on residents.
The Yanomami, one of the Amazon’s most iconic Indigenous groups, have related a harrowing series of abuses. They included miners giving Yanomami alcohol and drugs, then sexually abusing and raping women and girls.