BRASILIA, Brazil — Thousands of gold prospectors expelled from Yanomami Indian lands have invaded other Amazon reserves and spread malaria among the tribes, an Indian chief said.
The claim was made Thursday as representatives from 12 indigenous groups of the far-western Amazon state of Roraima came to the capital in search of medical aid.
Makuxi Chief Jaci said about 8,000 invading gold miners are spreading malaria in his 12,000-member tribe. The Makuxis, mostly farmers, inhabit a large reserve near the Venezuelan border.
The Indian leader said in four villages alone, 154 Makuxis have been infected in the last three months. Five of them died, including his own wife, he said.
Neither the National Indian Foundation nor the Justice Ministry would meet with the Indian chiefs Thursday, Jaci said. The government has said it lacks the money needed to demarcate the tribes' lands and remove the miners by force.
Brazil's Indians have steadily dwindled in number since 1987, when the clandestine rush to the Amazon began after government studies indicated a wealth of gold, diamonds, tin and bauxite there.
Prospectors and landless peasants have leveled rain forests, chased off game, polluted rivers with mercury used in gold panning, and spread diseases previously unknown to the tribes.