Soldiers, Tanks, & Helicopters Aid Awa in Shuttering Illegal Loggers
Brazilian troops swept into the area around Awa territory in late June to shut down illegal logging companies, according to Survival International (SI), a human rights organization dedicated to protecting tribal peoples.
This action comes two months after the Awa issued an international appeal for help in getting the government to comply with a judge's order to remove the loggers. However, government spokespeople have not commented on whether this effort came in response to the order. (Related story: Despite Legal Victories Awa Territory Still Full of Invaders in Brazil)
SI reported that, "Hundreds of soldiers, police officers and Environmental Ministry special agents have flooded the area, backed up with tanks, helicopters and close to a hundred other vehicles to halt the illegal deforestation which has already destroyed more than 30 percent of one of the Awa's indigenous territories."
Since the end of June, the operation has reportedly closed down eight sawmills as well as confiscated or destroyed a variety of machines and equipment.
While the recent shut down of the targeted logging companies has made it more difficult for other companies to enter that area, SI sources noted that the government operation has not ventured into the actual Awa territory where more illegal logging is taking place.
SI Director Stephen Corry pointed out though, that this action brings hope to Awa supporters.
"Brazil has taken a promising first step towards saving the world's most threatened tribe, and it's thanks to the many Awa supporters worldwide. This is proof that public opinion can effect change. However, the battle is not yet won: the authorities must not stop until all illegal invaders are gone."
The Awa sponsored an international call for support in April, requesting international support to pressure the Brazilian government into abiding by a judge's order to evict the loggers. Federal Judge Jirair Aram Meguerian issued the order in December of 2011 and stated that, as of March 2012, he would give the government one year to take action. By March of this year nothing had happened while the illegal logging operations continued.
SI Campaigner Sarah Shenker, who works with the Awa, reported that while the government has not publicly confirmed that it was responding to the judge's order or international pressure, "It is, however, extremely likely that these two factors have played a part in the authorities' decision to send in these forces in the largest operation of its kind to happen around the Awá's territories in many years."