MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Venezuela: Indigenous Yanonami "massacred" by illegal miners

Published by MAC on 2012-09-04
Source: Statements, BBC News

Venezuela: Indigenous organizations denounce another serious massacre of indigenous Yanomami by illegal Brazilian miners

Forest People's Program

29 August, 2012

Following a recent investigation carried out by the indigenous organization, Horonami, other indigenous organizations in the Venezuelan State of Amazonas have issued a joint statement denouncing a massacre of Yanomami indigenous people in the headwaters of the Ocamo river in the Upper Orinoco.

The massacre is alleged to have been perpetrated by Brazilian miners who illegally crossed the border into this remote, forested, upland area. Survivors of the massacre, which may have occurred as early as July 2012, apparently only reached the highland mission station in the Parima, situated some days trek to the south, in mid-August.

The survivors' claims were then investigated by the indigenous organization, Horonami, and reported to the public this week.

The problem of illegal incursions by Brazilian miners into the territory of the Venezuelan Yanomami has been going on sporadically since the mid-1960s and has led to repeated epidemics and outbreaks of violence. A similar massacre in the community of Haximu in 1993 led to international investigations and the conviction of several miners in the Brazilian courts. The full details of this latest massacre are not yet available but the initial report implies many more Yanomami were killed in this instance.

Read the joint statement of indigenous organizations in the Venezuelan States of Amazonas in Spanish or in English.


[This is an unofficial translation].

On August 27th 2012, gathered in the City of Puerto Ayacucho, we the Indigenous peoples and communities of the Venezuelan Amazon together as the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon (COIAM), made up of the Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon (ORPIA), the Indigenous Organization United Piaroa of Sipapo (OIPUS), the Ye´kuana Organization of the Upper Ventuari (KUYUNU), the Indigenous Organization Jivi Kalievirrinae (OPIJKA), the Yanomami Organization (HORONAMI), the Organization of Indigenous Women of the Amazon (OMIDA), the Organization of Indigenous Huôttuja Communities of the Parhuaza Sector (OCIUSPA), the Association of Piaroa Teachers (Madoya Huarijja), the Piaroa Organization of Cataniapo "Reyö Aje", the Indigenous Organization of the Negro River (UCIABYRN), the Piaroa
Organization of Manapiare, the Ye´kuana Organization of the Upper Orinoco (KUYUJANI
Originario), Yabarana Organization of Parucito (OIYAPAM), the Political Movement- Multi-Ethnic People United of the Amazon (PUAMA), make the following declaration about the recent MASSACRE OF INDIGENOUS YANOMAMI PEOPLE which took place in the community of IROTATHERI, in the Municipality of the Upper Orinoco, committed by illegal miners from Brazil.

This information was shared by the survivors and witnesses during the month of August 2012:

1. We stand in solidarity with the Yanomami People in Venezuela and their organization
HORONAMI, who, in the month of July 2012, have been the victims of a NEW MASSACRE IN
THE IROTATHERI COMMUNITY in the headwaters of the Ocamo river in the Municipality of
the Upper Orinoco. The area of the massacre is within the area of influence of various
Yanomami communities such as; MOMOI, HOKOMAWE, USHISHIWE and TORAPIWEI, of
which all have been attacked, assaulted and invaded by illegal miners from Brazil
(GARIMPEIROS) for more than 4 years.

2. We strongly deplore this new violent attack against the Yanomami people, which has killed an unknown number of people, allegedly leaving only 3 survivors of approximately 80
Yanomami people who lived in the community of Shapono in the Upper Ocamo. According
to witness and survivor testimonies, Shapono was burnt and attacked with firearms and

explosives. Witnesses and survivors were relocated to the community of Parima "B"between 15th and 20th August 2012, where they informed members of the organization, HORONAMI, Venezuelan Authorities of the 52nd Brigade of the National Army and the Centrefor Investigation and Control of Tropical Diseases (CAICET) of the tragic events.

3. We express our preoccupation that as of the year 2009 various entities of the Venezuelan State have been informed about the presence of GARIMPEIROS in the Upper Ocamo and about the different aggressions that have been perpetuated against the communities of MOMOI and HOKOMAWE. These communities have been victims of physical violence, threats, gender violence and contamination of their water from the use of mercury that has left a number of Yanomami dead.

Nevertheless, NO EFFECTIVE MEASURES HAVE BEEN TAKEN TO REMOVE THE GARIMPEIROS (BRAZILIAN MINERS) FROM THE AREA or to create and implement a control plan regarding their access and mobility in the region when there has been an known increase in illegal mining in all of the Brazilian Amazon.

4. This situation not only affects the rights to LIFE, PHYSICAL INTEGRITY and HEALTH OF THE YANOMAMI COMMUNITY, but also constitutes a new genocide and a new threat to the
physical and cultural survival of the Yanomami, at a time when 2013 marks 20 years since
the Massacre of the HAXIMÚ, where 16 women, children and elders were killed.

5. We call on the National Government and other bodies of the Venezuelan State to carry out an URGENT JUDICIAL INQUIRY , an IMMEDIATE VISIT TO THE CRIME SCENE and THE
monitor the entry of garimpeiros to the UPPER OCAMO, the place of the massacre and
where Yanomami people are threatened by the uncontrolled actions of illegal miners

It should be remembered that the failure to investigate and take effective
measures, as in the case of the HAXIMÚ, could compromise the Venezuelan State's
international responsibility, for allowing foreign agents to attack Venezuelan nationals in
their own territory.

(Signed): Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon (ORPIA)

Indigenous Organization United Piaroa of Sipapo (OIPUS)

Ye´kuana Organization of the Upper Ventuari (KUYUNU)

Indigenous Organization Jivi Kalievirrinae (OPIJKA)

Yanomami Organization (HORONAMI)

Organization of Indigenous Women of the Amazon (OMIDA)

Organization of Indigenous Huôttuja Communities of the Parhuaza Sector


Association of Piaroa Teachers (Madoya Huarijja)

Piaroa Organization of Cataniapo "Reyö Aje"

Indigenous Organization of the Negro River (UCIABYRN)

Piaroa Organization of Manapiare

Ye´kuana Organization of the Upper Orinoco (KUYUJANI Originario)

Yabarana Organization of Parucito (OIYAPAM)

Political Movement- Multi-Ethnic People United of the Amazon (PUAMA)

José Gregorio Díaz Mirabal

Vice-Cordinator CONIVE

Guillermo Guevara

(Indigenous Consituyent 1999)

Yanomami 'massacre' report dropped by Survival International

BBC News

11 September 2012

Campaign group Survival International, which had urged Venezuela to investigate reports of a massacre of Yanomami people in the Amazon, says it now believes no attack took place.

Survival reached this view after speaking to its own sources, the group said.

Reports emerged in August that illegal gold miners had killed up to 80 people.

Venezuelan officials said a team sent to the area had found no bodies and no evidence of an attack.

The attack was alleged to have happened in the remote Irotatheri community, close to the border with Brazil.

Survival carried reports from Yanomami organisations which described how illegal gold miners had set fire to a communal house, and how witnesses said they had found burnt bodies.

There were said to be three survivors.

On Monday, Survival International said this account did not appear to be correct.

"Having received its own testimony from confidential sources, Survival now believes there was no attack by miners on the Yanomami community of Irotatheri," said a statement from Stephen Corry, Survival International's director.


Yanomami in the area, where many illegal gold miners are operating, had heard stories of a killing in July and this was reported, by some, as having happened in Irotatheri, Mr Corry said.

"We currently do not known whether or not these stories were sparked by a violent incident, which is the most likely explanation, but tension remains high in the area." Yanomami in Irotatheri Life appeared to be continuing as normal, the visiting reporters said

The Venezuelan government said teams sent to investigate the reports had found no evidence of an attack.

Indigenous rights campaigners said the Venezuelan officials might have failed to find the community in question, which is based in a remote jungle location.

Journalists were then taken to the area on Friday and Saturday, where Yanomami villagers said there had been no violence.

"No-one's killed anyone," a Yanomami man said through a translator. "Here we are all fine."

Gold market

The Yanomami number an estimated 30,000, with their communities spanning the Venezuela-Brazil border area.

They have been resisting encroachment by gold miners for decades, accusing them of destroying the rainforest and introducing diseases.

In recent years the soaring price of gold on world markets has driven a surge in unlicensed gold-mining in many parts of the Amazon.

Survival called on the Venezuelan authorities to do more to evict miners from Yanomami land.

Military officials sent to the Irotatheri village said they had not found signs of mining activity in the area.

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