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Senate sends special team to probe rape and murder of indigenous girl that has rocked Brazil

BRAZIL’S Senate has despatched a special investigative team to indigenous Yanomami territory in the remote Amazon to probe reports of the rape and murder of a child.

Leaders of the indigenous group, which numbers around 30,000 and lives in an area approximately the size of Portugal in the north of the gigantic rainforest, say a 12-year-old Yanomami girl was raped and killed by illegal gold miners.

The case, first reported on April 25 by Junior Hekurari Yanomami, president of the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Indigenous District’s Health Council, has sparked uproar across Brazil for highlighting the dangers to native peoples from the rapid expansion of logging and mining in supposedly protected areas under President Jair Bolsonaro.

A federal police trip to Aracara deep in the jungle said it had found no evidence of the murder, but Yanomami leaders said locals had been intimidated by mining interests into denying what they knew.

“Rape and death have become commonplace in the densely invaded areas of Yanomami indigenous land,” Federal University of Rio de Janeiro anthropologist Carlos Fausto said.

The Hutukara Yanomami Association published last month a report, citing a local saying three indigenous teenagers had been raped and killed since 2020.

Environmental and indigenous advocacy groups estimate there are some 20,000 illegal miners now in Yanomami territory, while the Bolsonaro government claims there are fewer than 4,000.

Deforestation of the Amazon has hit 12-year highs under the current president, who has transferred management of indigenous lands away from a dedicated ministry to the Agriculture Ministry, saying he wants to increase “development” of the world’s largest tropical forest.

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