Brazil's military takes on illegal loggers to protect nearly-extinct tribe

Jeremy Hance
July 18, 2013

Brazil has launched a military campaign to evict illegal loggers working from the fringes of an indigenous reserve home to the Awá people, reports Survival International. Inhabiting the Amazon rainforest in northeastern Brazil, only around 450 Awá, also known as Guajá, survive today, and around a quarter of these have chosen voluntary isolation.

The Brazilian army has sent in hundreds of soldiers, in addition to tanks and helicopters, to break up the illegal logging camps. According to Survival International, eight sawmills in the region have been closed. The current campaign comes after 50,000 people called on Brazil's Minister of Justice to take action. In addition, last year a Brazilian judge, Jirair Aram Meguerian, ordered that all outsiders leave Awá territory by March of this year.

The current troubles for the Awá began in the 1960s when a railway was built near their territory to exploit iron ore from the Carajas Mine. The mine and railway brought settlers, which devastated the indigenous people through disease and conflict. Despite the establishment of an indigenous reserve in 2003, the Awá have continued to face endless encroachment by illegal loggers, including violence and murder. Survival International, which has long campaigned for government action to help the Awá, has dubbed the tribe "the world's most threatened." Over 50,000 people have signed a petition to Brazil's Minister of Justice

Still Survival International says that the army must also enter the indigenous reserve itself and evict all loggers and ranchers from the park.

Brazilian soldiers encounter illegal logging in the Amazon. Photo by: Exército Brasileiro.
Brazilian soldiers encounter illegal logging in the Amazon. Photo by: Exército Brasileiro.

AUTHOR: Jeremy Hance joined Mongabay full-time in 2009. He currently serves as senior writer and editor. He has also authored a book.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (July 18, 2013).

Brazil's military takes on illegal loggers to protect nearly-extinct tribe.