Brazilian federal police are investigating a “genocide" against the Yanomami people after it emerged that nearly a hundred children from the Indigenous group had died, the Justice Ministry said Tuesday.
The announcement came after a government report revealed Saturday that 99 Yanomami children living on Brazil’s largest Indigenous reservation — all under the age of five — died last year from malnutrition, pneumonia and malaria.
“I decided yesterday to open a new police investigation to find out (if there has been) a genocide," Justice Minister Flavio Dino told CNN Brasil.
“We are considering that there are very strong indications of neglecting nutritional and health assistance for these Indigenous populations, there was intention," he added.
The probe will consider the actions — and failures to act — by authorities and public health officials on Yanomami land, including possible environmental crimes.
Authorities also found several more cases of children with serious malnutrition, malaria, respiratory infections and other health complications during a visit last week, the ministry said.
Newly inaugurated President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva described an “inhumane" scene after himself visiting the community in the northern Amazonian state of Roraima.
According to Dino, the aid infrastructure for the Yanomami is “very precarious."
Yanomami territory, home to more than 30,000 Indigenous people, stretches 37,000 square miles (96,000 square kilometers) between Roraima and Amazonas states.
Lula’s government has set up a department to address the community’s concerns, in a pivot from far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, who maintained a hostile relationship with Brazil’s Indigenous peoples.
Before the genocide investigation announcement, a health crisis had already been declared in the are.
Conditions on the Yanomami reservation have become increasingly violent, with illegal miners regularly killing Indigenous residents, sexually abusing women and children and contaminating the area’s rivers with the mercury used to separate gold from sediment, according to complaints from Indigenous organizations.
And the increase of illegal mining in the Amazon has driven the spread of diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and Covid-19, according to experts.
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