Armed forces under the Bolsonaro government failed to operate in Yanomami land on seven occasions

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During the administration of Jair Bolsonaro (PL), the Armed Forces ceased to act in the fight against illegal mining in the Yanomami Indigenous Land or had insufficient action on at least seven occasions —which weakened police actions and contributed to the expansion of activity crime in the territory.

The peak of action by more than 20,000 invaders was in 2022, the last year of the government.

A Sheet heard from sources with direct involvement in actions to attempt to demobilize prospectors, consulted documents sent to the STF (Federal Supreme Court) and the MPF (Federal Public Ministry) and analyzed judicial decisions, which allowed identifying seven situations involving the military that, in the end After all, they favored the permanence of gold mining on Yanomami land.

The territory is in a border region with Venezuela. Bolsonaro’s Ministry of Defense barred the supply of aircraft to PF (Federal Police) operations in 2022, made in compliance with the STF decision. When he did, the military demanded compensation.

There were also similar requests for the use of a military base in Surucucu and lack of monitoring of the mining airspace.

The collusion with illegal mining and the lack of assistance to indigenous health in the Yanomami land provoked a humanitarian crisis in the territory, with an explosion in cases of malaria, severe malnutrition and other diseases associated with hunger, such as respiratory infections.

On the 20th, the Lula government (PT) declared a state of public health emergency in the indigenous land. The cases that demand more urgency –both in health care in the territory itself, in the regions of Surucucu and Auaris, and in air transport to hospitals in Boa Vista (RR)– are those of severe malnutrition and malaria.

Five days later, in response to a determination by the Minister of Justice, Flávio Dino, the PF in Roraima launched an inquiry to investigate the suspected crime of genocide of Yanomami indigenous people during the Bolsonaro government.

Garimpeiros will be investigated (both those on the front line and the mining logistics operators, owners of machinery and planes), former indigenous health coordinators and political agents, which may include the former president himself, a mining promoter. on indigenous lands.

The fronts of investigation into genocide were expanded with a decision by Minister Luís Roberto Barroso, of the STF, who determined that the PGR (Attorney General of the Republic) investigate the alleged commission of the crime by authorities of the Bolsonaro government.

Barroso also forwarded the determination of investigation into genocide and other crimes to the MPM (Military Public Ministry), an indication that military crimes were committed by uniforms or former uniforms during the past administration.

In 2022, of the 3 cycles of operations planned for the removal of invaders from Yanomami land, only 1 had Armed Forces aircraft, according to PF sources heard by the report on condition of anonymity.

These cycles were designed to comply with a STF order to remove the invasion of seven indigenous lands taken over by mining, including the Yanomami land, the largest in Brazil.

In the only cycle in which aircraft were supplied, the PF disbursed BRL 2.5 million from its budget to cover the cost of hours per flight for a single aircraft. In the operation, there was destruction of engines and equipment at the service of mining.


The 7 military refusals in the Bolsonaro government

  • Supply of aircraft for an operation in the indigenous land in 2022 only at the cost of the PF
  • Denying the supply of aircraft in a second operation in 2022
  • Denying the supply of aircraft in a third operation in 2022
  • Refusal to request airspace monitoring in the manner specified by the PF
  • Charging for the use of the military base in the Surucucu region, where the health crisis was more intense
  • Lack of logistical support for retaking the Homoxi region, where miners made the use of an indigenous health landing strip unfeasible and set fire to a health unit
  • Lack of air traffic control in Roraima and interception of aircraft supposedly used in mining

In the other two operations in 2022 in the indigenous land, the Ministry of Defense also demanded budget reimbursements, which made the availability of aircraft unfeasible.

In one case, Ibama (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) helicopters were used, with the destruction of machinery on the Uraricoera river, one of the most impacted by mining in Yanomami land.

In the second case of aircraft refusal by the military, federal police and Ibama agents carried out the operation only by land, which resulted in the destruction of an aircraft from the garimpo.

The absence of Defense negatively impacted the results of operations. The effects were minimal on the structure of illegal mining, operated with heavy machinery and an extensive fleet of irregular planes and helicopters.

The PF in Roraima does not have aircraft available for actions such as combating illegal mining, which increases the dependence on airplanes and helicopters from the Armed Forces.

A PF document forwarded to the STF, in the course of the action filed to remove miners from indigenous lands, provides more details on the role played by the Ministry of Defense in these operations.

According to the document, in meetings between the PF and Defense, the military presented the necessary costs for the supply of aircraft.

This took place in an action planned for the evacuation of the Homoxi base, which ended up on the way due to lack of logistical support.

Homoxi is a region in Yanomami land that has been taken over by miners. They surrounded the health unit, took over the landing strip previously used by aircraft transporting indigenous people for medical care and, finally, in December 2022, set fire to the unit. Since May, a decision by the Federal Court in Roraima has forced the Bolsonaro government to retake the place.

Sources linked to repression actions against the mining also claim that requests for monitoring the airspace in the indigenous land have not gone ahead, with the military alleging that the mining aircraft fly very low.

There was also a request for reimbursement of resources for the use of a military base in Surucucu. The region, one of the hardest hit by the health crisis, has an Army PEF (Special Frontier Platoon).

Barroso’s decision that determines investigation by PGR and MPM, based on a confidential procedure in the STF, brings details about other episodes involving the military and actions in indigenous lands.

The minister said that crimes of genocide, disobedience, breach of court secrecy and environmental crimes with impacts on the life, health and safety of indigenous peoples should be investigated.

The cases identified by the report relate to the period when the defense ministers were reserve general Walter Braga Netto (PL), who was later a candidate for vice president on Bolsonaro’s re-election ticket, and reserve general Paulo Sérgio Nogueira , the last to hold the position in the previous administration.

A Sheet he was unable to contact the two generals.

In a letter to the MPF in October 2022, to explain the lack of logistical support on Yanomami land, Nogueira said that the Armed Forces’ request for collaboration “is an initiative of the federal agency for assistance to the Indian”. Priority should be given to the PF, according to the then Minister of Defense.

“The role of the Armed Forces in terms of public security must occur in extremely exceptional situations, when the means and instruments of the public security bodies are exhausted,” said the general.

“The Navy, Army and Air Force cannot act in the country’s internal public security, except in temporary situations and justified by the inability of public security bodies to guarantee law and order, that is, in the face of an emergency and temporary situation , even depending on the recognition of the failure of the organs by the governor or president.”

The Ministry of Defense under Lula’s administration did not comment on the role of the military in Yanomami land during the last government.

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