Tell Venezuela to Better Protect Indigenous Peoples

Target: Venezuelan Minister of Indigenous Peoples Nicia Maldonado

Goal: Strengthen protections for Yanomami and other indigenous Amazonians

The Amazon jungle is home to a great many wonders. We know of thousands of species that dwell in its depths and are discovering more every day. Some of the most prized hardwoods and minerals can be found in the Amazon and represent significant financial opportunity. Some people are willing to exploit that opportunity by whatever means necessary. Most often those means involve the rampant destruction of ecosystems. However, other times those means involve the rampant destruction of one of the rarest species in the Amazon—human beings.

Among the thousands of indigenous peoples that inhabit the Amazon are the Yanomami, a group that lives in Northern Brazil and Southern Venezuela. The Yanomami have the misfortune in living in gold country. In recent years gold miners have flocked to the region, setting up illegal, clandestine operations that work under the radar of the government. Since they work outside of the regulations that govern legal mining operations they tend to act in a far more brutal way than regular miners. Recently, a group of illegal gold miners in remote Venezuela acted in an exceptionally brutal manner; massacring approximately 80 Yanomami just because they were in the way of the operation.

According to witnesses, the miners flew over the Yanomami village in a helicopter and opened fire with small arms and explosives. Those who saw the wreckage reported seeing charred bodies littering the ground. Other locals state the number of illegal miners has been rising for years, threatening traditional ways of life.

The Yanomami and all of the Amazon’s indigenous people face a dire threat from the modern world and from these unsanctioned encroachments. Illegal mining and logging operations have forced these people to the brink of extinction. If steps are not taken to help preserve their right to live and to maintain their culture, they will be wiped from the face of the Earth. Speak up and tell the Venezuelan government that the Yanomami and all other indigenous Amazonians must be better protected under law.


Dear Minister Maldonado,

News recently broke of a tragic massacre that took place in the deep south of your country, near the Brazilian border. Up to 80 members of Yanomami tribe have been brutally murdered by illegal gold miners. It should go without saying that this is a heinous atrocity. It is truly abhorrent that not only can your precious rainforests so easily fall prey to illegal exploitations but that people, your nation’s native people, can be so poorly treated.

Illegal mining operations have been a growing program over the last several years. Miners come into isolated, sometimes uncharted, areas and quickly establish extremely sophisticated mining enterprises. They work efficiently and clandestinely, far outside the purview of government bodies. The mining destroys local ecosystems and taints water sources, often spelling death for indigenous groups like the Yanomami. This time the miners decided to speed up the process, using helicopters and explosives to kill the Yanomami instead of mercury in the water. Those who went to the scene of the massacre afterwards reported seeing smoldering buildings and charred bodies strewn about.

Groups like the gold miners have repeatedly victimized the Yanomami and many other indigenous tribes. The expansion of the modern world into remote areas coupled with the cash-hungry, unethical, and morally bankrupt practices of illegal miners and loggers have driven many indigenous tribes, including the Yanomami, to the verge of extinction. If your government does not do a better job of protecting your indigenous peoples, you risk losing them and their culture forever.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Ivan Mlinaric via flickr

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