By Jeremy Hance
18 July 2013
(mongabay.com) – 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.
16 July 2013 (Survival International) – Survival International has received reports that Brazil’s military has launched a major ground operation against illegal logging around the land of the Awá, Earth’s most threatened tribe.
Hundreds of soldiers, police officers and Environment Ministry special agents have flooded the area, backed up with tanks, helicopters and close to a hundred other vehicles, to halt the illegal deforestation which has already destroyed more than 30% of one of the Awá’s indigenous territories.
Since the operation reportedly started at the end of June, 2013, at least eight saw mills have been closed and other machinery has been confiscated and destroyed.
The operation comes at a critical time for the Awá, one of the last nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes in the Brazilian Amazon, who are at risk of extinction if the destruction of their forest is not stopped as a matter of urgency.
But while the operation is making it more difficult for loggers to enter Awá territory and remove the valuable timber, the forces have not moved onto the Awá’s land itself – where illegal logging is taking place at an alarming rate and where quick action is crucial.
Amiri Awá told Survival, ‘The invaders must be made to leave our forest. We don’t want our forest to disappear. The loggers have already destroyed many areas.’
Tens of thousands of people worldwide, including many celebrities, have joined Survival International’s campaign urging the Brazilian government to send forces into the Awá’s territories to evict the illegal invaders, stop the destruction of the Awá’s forest, prosecute the illegal loggers and prevent them from re-entering the area.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Brazil has taken a promising first step towards saving the world’s most threatened tribe, and it’s thanks to the many thousands of Awá supporters worldwide. This is proof that public opinion can effect change. However, the battle is not yet won: the authorities must not stop until all illegal invaders are gone.’