Brazilian soldiers, police and other officials arrived in Awá territory in January to completely remove illegal loggers, ranchers and others from the area.
According to Survival International (SI) and other sources, on January 3 the Brazilian government sent troops to finish the job started in June, when soldiers had shut down eight saw mills and destroyed machinery but did not evict the non-indigenous residents of the territory.
“Soldiers, field workers from Brazil’s indigenous affairs department FUNAI, Environment Ministry special agents and police officers are being dispatched to notify and remove the illegal settlers, ranchers and loggers – many of whom are heavily armed – from the Awá indigenous territory in the North-Eastern Brazilian Amazon,” according to the SI announcement.
This latest operation comes after more than 30 percent of the Awá forest has already been destroyed. Awa residents have asserted that they were afraid of hunting too far from their homes due to violent confrontations with loggers and ranchers in the past.
By January 14 the Brazilian Army had set up an office for FUNAI to deal with the illegal residents. Upon notification the residents have 40 days to leave the area voluntarily. Eligible small farm families will also receive assistance through Brazil’s National Agrarian Reform Plan according to official notices.
SI’s campaign to remove the illegal operations started in April of 2012 and involved petitions to Brazilian authorities, international media coverage and formal requests to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).
SI Director Stephen Corry said, “This is a momentous and potentially life-saving occasion for the Awá. Their many thousands of supporters worldwide can be proud of the change they have helped the tribe bring about. But all eyes are now on Brazil to ensure it completes the operation before the World Cup kicks off in June, and protects Awá land once and for all.”
The Awá people of northeastern Brazil are among the last nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes in the country and depend entirely on the rainforest. Close to 100 Awá have avoided contact with non-indigenous people.