A member of the National Foundation of the Indian (Funai), Maxciel Pereira dos Santos, was killed with two shots to the head in the city of Tabatinga, in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, near the border with Peru and Colombia.
“The killing was carried out in cold blood on a busy avenue and in front of his family,” according to a statement by the Associated Indian Association (INA), composed of Funai workers, a governmental organization charged with promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.
At the time of the killing Santos was driving a motorcycle with his wife and step daughter who both witnessed the killing. “There are indications that this barbaric crime occurred in reprisal for his actions against illegal mining practices on indigenous land,” says INA.
Santos had been working for 12 years in the Tierra Javari Valley Indigenous Area, where the largest number of uncontacted Indians in the world live and who, according to the association, have since been attacked “on no less than four occasions”. “It is a permanent target of the criminal organizations dedicated to the illegal exploitation of hunting, fishing, wood and ore extraction,” adds the association.
Maxciel had worked for five years as head of the Environmental and Territorial Management Service, of the Javari Valley Ethno-Environmental Protection Front, which is charged with overseeing the area.
Santos worked mainly at the base installed on the Itacoaí-Ituí rivers, about 40 kilometers from the city of Atalaia, according to the daily Folha de S. Paulo. The purpose of the base is to prevent invaders from entering the indigenous reserve, which covers over 8.5 million hectares and where about 5,000 Indians from seven different ethnicities live, in 10 isolated groups.
The most recent attack was on July 19, when illegal hunters fired at the base where 12 Funai workers were working. No one was injured.
INA warns that defenders of indigenous lands are working “in precarious conditions”. “Each time they are more threatened and vulnerable,” explains the association, which calls for “protection” by the authorities. The police is investigating whether the killing of Santos is related to his work for Funai.