Brazilian environmentalists mourn the death of a leading expert on isolated Amazon tribes, killed by an arrow that hit him in the chest.
Rieli Franciscato’s friends say he died in the rainforest while on a mission to protect an isolated indigenous group from a possible hostile encounter with strangers.
This happened on the edge of the Uru Eu Wau Wau reserve in the western Brazilian state of Rondônia, an area where the forest has suffered invasions by illegal loggers and miners, as well as by ranchers. who set fire to cleanse the earth.
The murder sparked speculation that Franciscato was killed by the isolated group after being mistaken for an invader. His death on Wednesday was witnessed by a policeman, Paulo Ricardo Bressa, whom Franciscato had asked to accompany him on his expedition to the region.
Bressa says Franciscato went up a hill to see if he could check if any isolated tribes were moving in the area.
“We heard the sound of an arrow hitting his chest.
He screamed, pulled the arrow out and ran back. He managed to run 50 to 60 meters and then collapsed, lifeless,” Bressa said. , in an audio message broadcast by the Brazilian media.
Franciscate, 56, has spent his career working for the Brazilian government’s indigenous affairs agency, Funai, and has built a reputation as a tireless advocate of isolated indigenous groups and their forests.
Survival International, an organization that defends the rights of indigenous peoples, described his death as “a tragic and immeasurable loss”.
“He refused to accept the violent greed that was destroying the Amazon rainforest and its best keepers,” he said. “He worked tirelessly to protect the lands of tribes isolated from outsiders.
“He has dedicated his life to it,
working at the forefront to combat illegal invasions by loggers, ranchers and miners that threaten to wipe out the most vulnerable people on the planet.”
The death of Franciscato reinforces the concern of forest protectors for the policies led by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who advocates the integration of indigenous peoples into the wider Brazilian society and wants to exploit the natural resources of the Amazon.
They accuse Bolsonaro of fueling violence in the Amazon region by downsizing government environmental protection agencies and encouraging groups wishing to invade indigenous lands. As evidence, environmental activists point to the number of fires currently underway in the Brazilian Amazon. In the first nine days of this month, satellites used by the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research detected 12,412 fires, more than double the same period last year. Many of these problems are caused by illegal ranchers clearing land that has already been cleared.