UN rights chief condemns Brazil tribal leader's killing

Geneva (AFP) –


The UN rights chief on Monday condemned the "reprehensible" murder of a tribal chief in the Amazon, linking the killing to the pro-mining policies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

The body of the head of the Waiapi tribe, which controls territory in the northern state of Amapa deep inside the Amazon, was found in a river last week.

Rich in gold, manganese, iron and copper, the Waiapi's territory has faced growing pressure from miners, ranchers and loggers under far-right Bolsonaro.

The chief's murder "is tragic and reprehensible in its own right," the United High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said in a statement.

"It is also a disturbing symptom of the growing problem of encroachment on indigenous land ?- especially forests ?- by miners, loggers and farmers in Brazil," she added.

Bolsonaro on Saturday called for the "first world" to help exploit the "absurd quantity of minerals" in the rainforest.

Bachelet said the "proposed policy to open up more areas of the Amazon to mining could lead to incidents of violence, intimidation and killings of the type inflicted on the Waiapi people last week".

Brazilian police are also investigating reports that a group of heavily armed miners, known as garimpeiros, overran a village in the same area of Amapa state days after the chief was killed.

Bachelet called on Brazil "to reconsider its policies towards indigenous peoples and their lands, so (the chief's) murder does not herald a new wave of violence aimed at scaring people off their ancestral lands".

The Waiapi's territory is one of hundreds Brazil's government demarcated in the 1980s for the exclusive use of its 800,000 indigenous inhabitants.

Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has been accused of harming the Amazon and indigenous tribes in order to benefit his supporters in the logging, mining and farming industries.