|José Carlos Meirelles and Brazilian police at FUNAI ’s remote outpost on the Envira river, invaded by drug traffickers. © Maria Emília Coelho/Survival|
The Brazilian guard post protecting the uncontacted Indians who were filmed from the air earlier this year has been over-run by heavily-armed men, suspected to be drug-traffickers. It has been ransacked and vital equipment destroyed.
Fears are now mounting for the welfare of the Indians after workers from FUNAI (the government’s Indian Affairs Department) found one of the traffickers’ rucksacks with a broken arrow inside. A rapid survey by government officials has shown no trace of the Indians, who made worldwide headlines in February.
Police have reportedly found a package containing 20kg of cocaine nearby. It is feared the Envira River, where the post is located, has become an entry point into Brazil for cocaine smugglers from Peru.
According to local reports, police have detained one man, a Portuguese national who was arrested for drug trafficking in March and subsequently deported.
Download a map showing the location of the FUNAI post (red triangle).
|The uncontacted tribe made worldwide headlines in February 2011. © G. Miranda/FUNAI/Survival|
José Carlos Meirelles, the former head of the post, has been helicoptered back in to the post with several men, and reported that several groups of men armed with sub-machine guns and rifles are in the forest surrounding the base.
Carlos Travassos, the head of the Brazilian government’s isolated Indians department, said today, ‘Arrows are like the identity card of uncontacted Indians. We think the Peruvians made the Indians flee. Now we have good proof. We are more worried than ever. This situation could be one of the biggest blows we have ever seen in the protection of uncontacted Indians in recent decades. It’s a catastrophe.’
In a message to Survival, Meirelles said, ‘We will remain here, come what may, until the Brazilian state decides to resolve this situation once and for all. Not for our protection, but for the protection of the Indians.’ Meirelles told Survival that a police team is embarking today on a hunt for the remaining traffickers.
Survival International Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘This is extremely distressing news. There is no knowing how many tribal peoples the drugs trade has wiped out in the past, but all possible measures should be taken to stop it happening again. The world’s attention should be on these uncontacted Indians, just as it was at the beginning of this year when they were first captured on film.’