Venezuela denies yanomaman version about massacre in the Amazon area
CARACAS, 4 Set (Reuters)-Venezuela’s Government said at the weekend that there is no evidence that Brazilian miners have killed more than 70 people in a Yanomami village, but indigenous groups maintain their version that the massacre happened.
Representatives of the Ya̧nomamö said last week that the miners crossed the border with Venezuela, and helicopter, attacked the Indian village. The case would have happened in July, but, because of the isolation of the border region, was only reported now.
Venezuelan authorities said, however, that recent flybys of the area does not corroborate the thesis of the massacre. “We can tell the country that we have not seen evidence of deaths,” said Venezuelan Minister on TV, Social Affairs, Nicia Maldonado.
Indigenous rights advocacy groups and some local politicians criticized the Venezuelan Government, accusing him of having precipitated its conclusions.
The dense forest of the region and the nomadic habits of the Ya̧nomamö make unlikely the authorities have come to the exact location of the alleged massacre, according to critics of the Government. Even the natives, they argue, take days to be able to move between the communities of the area.
In joint note 11 NGOs and tribes, including the Yanomami, said that “one cannot say that there is no evidence”, and asked that the Government continue investigating.
Indigenous Liborio Guarulla, Governor of the Venezuelan State of Amazonas (South), where the attack occurred, accused the Government of Hugo Chávez “mobilize resources just to mute the issue”.
For some authorities, the report of an attack committed by foreigners brandishing weapons and explosives from a helicopter is implausible. These officials said the attackers would have financial resources, military experience and familiarity with a land where access by high is difficult, and in addition would have to know the habits and the whereabouts of the Yanomami, who live in small groups and constantly Exchange housing.
“It would be extremely difficult to do,” said the Commander of the Venezuelan army unit responsible for the region, general Rafael Zambrano. By telephone, he declared that a small military patrol continues inspecting the area, just in case.
People familiar with the Ya̧nomamö said that the appeal of them for an investigation is something exceptional, since their tribal tradition is to avoid talk of the dead.
“The fact they make these accusations is a sign of how serious the problem is,” said Mark Wesley de Oliveira, Coordinator of a regional programme for indigenous peoples on Brazilian NGO Instituto Socioambiental.
In recent decades, miners and other outsiders have been exerting increasing pressure on the Yanomami lands on both sides of the Brazil-Venezuela border.
The Government of Brazil said last week that asked for more information on Caracas about the alleged attack, and also clarification on the possible involvement of Brazilians. On Monday, the Foreign Ministry said it had not received any request to help Venezuela in investigations.
If the attack has occurred, the number of victims remains uncertain. In the document presented to the Venezuelan authorities, the tribe says that only three members of the village were located alive.
According to the note, these three Indians had come to hunt when listened to the noise of a helicopter, followed by gunfire and explosions. They then would have alerted the Ya̧nomamö another settlement, which were to the village and found charred bodies.
(Additional reporting by Peter Murphy)