The presence of prospectors on Yanomami Indian lands in Brazil is an old problem. Over the last two months, with an increase in the number of prospectors, it has been getting worse.
According to the coordinator general of the Brazilian NGO, Cooperation Service for the Yanomami People (Secoya), Silvio Cavuscens, "Some of the prospectors are getting close to Indian villages and confronting the Yanomami. They bring disease and harm the environment. Brazilian government health agents have left the area because they are afraid of what might happen."
The Yanomami reserve area, in the states of Roraima and Amazonas, on the border of Brazil with Venezuela, was officially established in 1992. Some 12,000 Indians live there.
"In 1993, there were some 10,000 prospectors in the region and a serious conflict resulting in the deaths of 16 Yanomami occurred in a place called Haximu. The incident got international attention and the government cracked down on the prospectors and removed them (5 prospectors were sentenced for the deaths of the Indians at Haximu). Unfortunately, the prospectors have returned," explains Cavuscens.
Under Brazilian law, the state owns the land in indigenous reserve areas and the Indians have exclusive rights to use it. Thus, the problem is a federal problem and the Federal Police should remove the prospectors. There are reports that the police say they do not have the men to do the job.