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Latam Brief: Wildcat miners start fleeing Yanomami territory (February 07, 2023)

Latin America Daily Briefing
Latin America Daily Briefing

Illegal gold miners in the Brazil’s Indigenous Yanomami territory are asking authorities to help them leave, ahead of a planned military operation to evict them from the area where mining is banned by the country’s constitution, reports Reuters.

More than 20,000 miners have occupied the country’s largest Indigenous protected area in the Amazon, causing widespread environmental destruction, violence and an acute health crisis among the Yanomamis, estimated to be about 28,000 in number. Illegal miners have poisoned their water supplies with mercury and triggered a food crisis by destroying forest.

Police opened an investigation into crimes including genocide on the reservation last month, after images of starving Yanomami children shook Brazil.

Justice Minister Flavio Dino said officials were moving more than 500 police and soldiers into place for an operation to evict the miners, which he said would start later this week. (AFP)

The leader of a wildcat mining group called on the government to airlift miners from the area or lift a no-fly zone to allow them to fly out on small planes from clandestine airstrips.

Thousands of miners have already begun fleeing the area, some reportedly trekking out on foot — up-to a 30 day journey — or crowding onto boats. There have been reports of conflict between fleeing miners and Indigenous people. Some of the miners that are beginning to leave the Yanomami reservation are expected to head across the border into neighboring French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana.

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be investigated for genocide, and held accountable for the proliferation of thousands of illegal miners under the previous administration, argues current Environmental Minister Marina Silva. Bolsonaro should be (Guardian)


  • Canada deployed a long-range military aircraft to provide intelligence on Haiti’s violent gangs, part of Quebec’s efforts to support Haiti’s National Police in the midst of a violent security crisis, reports the Miami Herald.

  • Haiti’s humanitarian crisis has left half the country’s children reliant on aid to survive, according to Unicef. At least 2.6 million are expected to need immediate lifesaving assistance this year, reports the Guardian.


  • U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris announced almost $1 billion in new pledges by private companies to support communities in Central America. The effort is part of the Biden administration’s effort to stem record numbers of migrants arriving at the country’s southern border, reports the New York Times.


  • Leaked video footage from a deep-sea mining test by a Canadian company has raised questions about the largely untested nature of the industry, and the possible harms it could do to ecosystem. Experts say deep-sea mining could kick up clouds of sediment containing toxic heavy metals and impact marine life, reports the Guardian.


  • Colombia’s Constitutional Court backed Volcánicas, a feminist media outlet, against Colombian director Ciro Guerra who sought to block reports of his alleged sexual harassment of eight women. (El PaísVariety)

  • In its statement, the court noted: “The journalists did not violate the rights of the petitioner, but instead presented a report of public and political interest, which reflects a specially protected discourse that is necessary to confront discrimination against women and gender-based violence.”


  • Organized crime is one of the main drivers of violence against women in Venezuela. Community leaders, family members of criminals, and workers in illicit economies are particularly vulnerable to femicides, reports InSight Crime.


  • Eight amateur rugby players were found guilty of the 2020 murder of a young man in a seaside resort. The group beat Fernando Báez Sosa to death after an altercation at a nightclub, filmed parts of the attack, and swore each other to secrecy. Báez Sosa was the son of Paraguayan immigrants, and his family and activists consider race to be a key factor in the attack. (Guardian)

  • Argentine horror writer Mariana Enríquez says her writing seeks to re-sensitize readers to the horrors of real life violence in Latin America, which has been normalized to the point that people’s reaction to it has become subdued, reports New York Times.

More Brazil

  • Brazilian federal police arrested the military police officer who led security operations in Brasilía on Jan. 8, reports Reuters.


  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made state-run oil company Pemex a central priority for his administration, but his nationalistic energy policies will leave the company in bad shape for the next government, argues James Bosworth in World Politics Review.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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