Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Indigenous Awa Facing Genocide In Amazon

Indigenous Awa facing genocide in Amazon

Tue May 22, 2012 2:26AM GMT

A Brazilian official says the national government is trying hard to save the lives and land of the indigenous Awa people in Brazil's rain forests from illegal loggers.

"The Brazilian state must accomplish this task with the utmost determination and we are working hard on it," Maria do Rosario, the minister in charge of human rights, told foreign reporters on Monday.

The Awa, a community of several hundred living in Brazil’s Northeastern Amazon, have been dubbed "the most threatened tribe in the world" by Survival International, a leading advocate for tribal peoples' rights worldwide.

The human rights group said the Awa people are facing extinction due to land invasions and abuses by the logging industry and warned that the situation has reached crisis point with about 30 percent of a legally-protected reserve cut down.

Do Rosario said Brazil's National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) was running surveillance operations on lands inhabited by the Awa people to stop illegal logging.

"There are joint operations with the police to protect the rights of these people," she said.

A Brazilian government estimate says "up to 4,500 invaders, ranchers, loggers and settlers" could be encroaching on just one of the four territories inhabited by the Awa in the Amazon.

One of the world´s last hunter-gatherer groups, the Awa live in the Brazilian state of Maranhao.

Last month, Survival International launched a major campaign, spearheaded by Oscar-winning British actor Colin Firth, to focus attention on the plight of the Awa, saying they were threatened with "genocide" and "extinction."

According to Survival, there are roughly 360 Awa who have been contacted by outsiders, many of them survivors of brutal massacres, along with another 100 believed to be hiding in the rapidly-shrinking forest.

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