Performers from the Salgueiro samba school parade during Carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Monday.
The Associated Press
Carnival dancers have taken the biggest stage in Rio de Janeiro to pay tribute to Brazil’s largest Indigenous group and pressure President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to deliver on promises to eradicate illegal mining.
Carnival has long been a platform for samba schools to protest. Percussionists had “Miners out” written across the skins of their drums as participants marched through the Sambadrome on Sunday evening, delivering their message to more than 70,000 revelers and millions watching live on television.
“The chance that’s left for us is an Indigenous Brazil,” they said as part of Salgueiro’s samba school’s tribute to the Yanomami — one year after Lula declared a public health emergency for the group in the Amazon. They suffer from malnutrition and diseases such as malaria as a consequence of illegal mining.
“Ours is a cry for help from Brazil and the world in general,” said Davi Kopenawa,a Yanomami leader and shaman who advised the samba school. “My hope is that the world, upon hearing our call, will put pressure on the Brazilian government to remove all the miners, destroyers of our mother Earth, who are soiling the water and killing fish.”
Kopenawa paraded with feathered armbands and headdress, plus a beaded necklace depicting a jaguar. Thirteen other Yanomami participated.
Sonia Guajajara, who leads the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples created in 2022 under Lula, congratulated Kopenawa and Salgueiro on Monday for their efforts recounting the group’s long struggle, from colonization to more recent efforts to repeal Indigenous land rights.
Some 30,000 Yanomami live in Brazil’s largest Indigenous territory, spanning more than 22 million acres in the northern Amazon rainforest.
Three weeks after assuming the presidency, Lula declared a public health emergency over the effects of illegal mining there and sent the armed forces, doctors, nurses and food. Still, over 300 Yanomami died of various causes in 2023, according to the health ministry.
Lula also created an inter-ministerial task force to fight illegal mining and in 2023, Brazil’s environmental agency destroyed a record 33 aircraft found on or near Yanomami territory. The agents also wrecked or apprehended mining barges, fuel, Starlink internet units and campsites.
Government officials say that since the operation began, areas with illegal mining inside Yanomami territory have dropped 85% and health has improved.
But after the initial success, prosecutors, law enforcement and employees of federal environmental agencies say illegal miners are returning.