Latin America & Caribbean

Yanomami 'massacre' report dropped by Survival International

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Media captionMembers of the community told reporters there had been no killings

Campaign group Survival International, which had urged Venezuela to investigate reports of a massacre of Yanomami people in the Amazon, says it now believes no attack took place.

Survival reached this view after speaking to its own sources, the group said.

Reports emerged in August that illegal gold miners had killed up to 80 people.

Venezuelan officials said a team sent to the area had found no bodies and no evidence of an attack.

The attack was alleged to have happened in the remote Irotatheri community, close to the border with Brazil.

Image caption The remote community lies deep in the Amazon rainforest

Survival carried reports from Yanomami organisations which described how illegal gold miners had set fire to a communal house, and how witnesses said they had found burnt bodies.

There were said to be three survivors.

On Monday, Survival International said this account did not appear to be correct.

"Having received its own testimony from confidential sources, Survival now believes there was no attack by miners on the Yanomami community of Irotatheri," said a statement from Stephen Corry, Survival International's director.


Yanomami in the area, where many illegal gold miners are operating, had heard stories of a killing in July and this was reported, by some, as having happened in Irotatheri, Mr Corry said.

"We currently do not known whether or not these stories were sparked by a violent incident, which is the most likely explanation, but tension remains high in the area."

Image caption Life appeared to be continuing as normal, the visiting reporters said

The Venezuelan government said teams sent to investigate the reports had found no evidence of an attack.

Indigenous rights campaigners said the Venezuelan officials might have failed to find the community in question, which is based in a remote jungle location.

Journalists were then taken to the area on Friday and Saturday, where Yanomami villagers said there had been no violence.

"No-one's killed anyone," a Yanomami man said through a translator. "Here we are all fine."

Gold market

The Yanomami number an estimated 30,000, with their communities spanning the Venezuela-Brazil border area.

They have been resisting encroachment by gold miners for decades, accusing them of destroying the rainforest and introducing diseases.

In recent years the soaring price of gold on world markets has driven a surge in unlicensed gold-mining in many parts of the Amazon.

Survival called on the Venezuelan authorities to do more to evict miners from Yanomami land.

Military officials sent to the Irotatheri village said they had not found signs of mining activity in the area.

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