Brazilian Senate to investigate alleged Yanomami rape

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s Senate human rights committee is sending a team to Yanomami indigenous territory after reporting that a 12-year-old indigenous girl had been raped and murdered.

In a post on his Twitter account on Tuesday, Senator Humberto Costa, who heads the committee, said the purpose of the trip was to secure the “inviolable rights” of indigenous peoples.

It is not yet known how the Senate team will conduct its investigation. The Associated Press attempted to contact Senator Costa by phone and WhatsApp, but was unable to speak to him.


Reports of the crime sparked outrage in Brazil, where many were already worried about the treatment of the Yanomami, whose territory on Brazil’s border with Venezuela has been overrun by thousands of illegal gold diggers. At a Supreme Court session on Friday, a judge called for an investigation and the presiding judge called the case “very serious”.

The alleged crime was first reported on April 25 by Junior Hekurari Yanomami, chairman of the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Aboriginal District Health Council. In a video posted on social media, he accused illegal miners of being responsible for the crime.

Two days later, the Federal Police flew to the isolated community of Aracaça. The department said in a statement afterwards that it found no evidence of a girl’s murder. Yanomami leaders, however, said in their own statement that the miners coerced locals into denying the killing.

“Rape and death have become commonplace in the densely invaded areas of the Yanomami indigenous lands,” Carlos Fausto, an anthropologist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told the AP via text message.

Fausto referred to a “Yanomami Under Attack” report, published last month by the Hutukara Yanomami Association. It quotes an anonymous Yanomami woman who said there have been three rapes and murders of indigenous teenagers since 2020.

Environmental and indigenous groups estimate that there are currently some 20,000 illegal miners in Yanomami territory, which is roughly the size of Portugal. President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration claimed there were far fewer, just 3,500 invaders. The total indigenous population there is around 29,000, according to the Hutukara association.

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