|The Walrus Magazine, November , 2004
DEATH AND DIAMONDS IN THE AMAZON
By SHAWN BLORE
Illegal diamonds are the prize. But death
in the Amazon rainforest is the price as
Indians, Brazilian miners, and a mysterious
third party fight over the richest deposit
in South America.
PORTO VELHO -- Night falls early in the Amazon.
Through the darkness, the headlights of my
little white Gol pick up the outline of elaborate
marble tombs. Close in front of me the beams
illuminate a solitary row of 29 wooden crosses,
the names stencilled on in black. Fifteen
of the graves have only numbers.
This is the last earthly resting place
twenty-nine diamond miners, killed
7, 2004 by warriors of the Cinta Larga
tribe. Nearby, I see a wooden plaque
someone has inscribed a miner's epitaph:
In the game of life we all place wagers.
Of all that I had, I bet the most important-life-and
I won the most valuable of all rewards-the
kingdom of God.
"Did you know them?" I ask
He nods. "Some of them were my
They were killed brutally."
"Do you blame the Indians?"
"No. Not the Indians. They've
by some third. Someone who wants the
He pauses. "For myself, I want to know
who this third is."
As do I.
I had come to Rondônia in the wake
deadly clash to investigate the conflict
between the diamond miners and the
Larga Indians. The miners' brutal massacre
had been front page news in every paper
Brazil. As reported, the storyline
straightforward: greedy miners, angry
incredible wealth, the forces of law
order - as so often on the Amazon frontier
- too weak to intervene. That the violence
could have orchestrated by some third
had never crossed my mind. Not until
night, in the presence of the dead,
graveyard in the midst of what had
Flying from Rio de Janeiro it takes
seven seated airplane hours to reach
rainforest state of Rondônia, located
to Bolivia on Brazil's far western
Twenty years ago this was deforestation's
frontline. Settlers poured in to fill
forest and subdue it. Sting and Greenpeace
came and sang songs and waved banners-eco-green
Canutes trying to hold back the human
A generation later, much of the forest
been cut, dried, and shipped abroad,
burned to make room for cows. The eroding
edge of the frontier has swept further
leaving those in the backwash scrabbling
over the scraps of treasure that remain.
In 1999, a lone prospector emerged
jungle, his back a wriggling mass of
larvae, his hands grasping a diamond
size of an ice cube. The stone had
the Roosevelt Indian Reserve, 230,000
of Amazonian rainforest, intact only
legally, it belongs to the 1,200 members
of the Cinta Larga Indian tribe.
Named for the broad fibre belts they
wore (Cinta Larga means "broad
in Portuguese), the tribe first came
contact with the Western world sometime
the late 1950s. At the time, their
was about 5,000. Over the next two
disease, displacement, massacres by
tappers and encroaching settlers reduced
their numbers to just over 1,000. The
got recognized title to their ancestral
in 1979, four reserves totalling 2.7
hectares, which includes the Roosevelt
In the 1980s, the demand for black-market
mahogany reached Cinta Larga lands.
C$45 million in tropical hardwood was
from their territory each year for
part of a decade, according to figures
Brazil's environmental protection agency,
IBAMA. The Cinta Larga received but
of the wealth.
With the discovery of diamonds, miners
across the Roosevelt River into Cinta
territory. Mining is illegal on Indian
in Brazil, by whites and Indians both.
laws in Brazil are more often honoured
their breach. The Indians, at first,
to profit from the boom, charging miners
a C$5,000 entrance fee, plus 10 percent
their take. By 2002, the Roosevelt
was home to a mining colony 5,000 strong,
complete with bars, brothels, wild-west
and miners with little inclination
fees or commissions to Indians.
The Indians asked the Brazilian Indian
FUNAI, to remove the miners from their
FUNAI complied, and by January 2003
had been removed. The Indians then
mining on their own, churning out an
C$30 million worth of gems each month,
illegally into the international market.
Lured by the easy riches, miners began
back into the reserve. The Indians
them again. The miners went back in.
began to fray. In early April 2004,
fled the reserve, speaking of an attack
the Cinta Larga, of dozens, maybe hundreds,
Within days, the Brazilian government
called in the army and federal police,
the reserve and putting the Cinta Larga
a state of siege. The head of FUNAI
the Cinta Larga were simply defending
Rondônia Governor Ivo Cassol put the
squarely on FUNAI. The Indians said
making themselves scarce, and shutting
When the federal police finally dug
the miners, the final count came to
The bodies, in various states of decay,
shipped north to Porto Velho, Rondônia's
capital. Two months later, I was at
office pouring over a stack of autopsy
Most of the victims were like this
coroner says, pointing to a photo of
with the side of his face caved in.
was likely an Indian club, what they
a tacapé or bodurna; a long wooden
with a thick bit at one end.
"Is one blow enough to kill a
"Oh, yes," he says, surprised
anyone should find death a difficult
to achieve. "Swelling inside the
cavity cuts off oxygen supply to the
The victim never regains consciousness."
[Coroner in Porto Velho]
He opens more folders. Some of the
had their hands tied behind their back.
or five had been killed with bullets.
calibre. Also twenty-two. The coroner
out a bullet from a plastic evidence
and places it in my hand. It's cool
touch, like a grape. Six were killed
piercing wounds, probably lances or
Two were burned after death. Part of
maybe. Or to send a message. Or to
who sent the miners into the reserve.
Before I go, the coroner adds one final
most of the victims were eviscerated,
stomachs and intestines slit open from
to bottom. Miners, he explains, are
to transporting diamonds in the digestive
tract. "Someone must have been
That afternoon, I climb up rusty stairs
the office of CIMI, the indigenous
of Brazil's Catholic Church. CIMI doesn't
work with the Cinta Larga, but they
a substantial file on the tribe, one
provides an interesting insight into
Their files contain clippings from
two main newspapers, the Folha de Rondônia
and the Diário da Amazônia. Both read
rainforest versions of the USSR's old
every move, thought, twitch, and wiggle
Rondônia's governor, Ivo Cassol, is
of laudatory headlines.
CIMI's legal counsellor, Maria Filipini,
tells me there aren't a lot of readers
support the press in Rondônia, so their
survival depends on advertising from
agencies. In return, the governor demands
positive coverage. Many of the stories,
notice, concern the governor's strong
in the Roosevelt diamonds.
It's dark by the time I return to my
I'm travelling with a colleague, a
for Radio Netherlands, Marjon van Royen.
Out by the pool I find her sitting
older gentlemen. Their table is covered
silver ice buckets and half-empty bottles
of Beefeater and Johnny Walker Red.
them is wearing a shirt that says,
"Some fellow Canadians for you,"
Marjon calls out. "This is Jeffrey.
That's Roger." Introductions apparently
are to be kept to first names. "Over
there is Roger's son, Jan." She
to a younger man seated at a nearby
Roger, the one with the T-shirt, is
Calgary. Jeffrey speaks with the plummy
of British private schooling. They're
prospectors, Marjon has discovered.
just come back from the field. And
more, they're celebrating, but what,
discover. Every time we make a pass
topic, they glance away. Marjon finally
straight out, what they've found.
Jeffrey sets his voice to extra plummy.
don't mean to be rude," he says,
we're in a business where you really
talk about things."
"Like prostitution," says
Jeffrey barks. It's unclear whether
laughing or choking. "Yes,"
finally says. "How witty of you."
I decide it's a good time to seek out
who seems oddly keen to impress.
"Jeffrey?" he says when I
his father's friend. "He was the
of DeBeers in Brazil for years. He
everyone in Brasilia." Jan leans
"He writes Brazil's mining legislation."
The next day, Marjon and I head south
Rondônia's one paved highway, the BR-364.
Punched through the rainforest in the
it brought progress and settlers and
end of a million-year-old forest. Nowadays
it's a sea of potholes. A 500-kilometer
takes nine hours, bobbing and weaving
a string of frontier cities with Indian
Ariquemes, Jaru, Ji-Parana, and finally
our destination. At the office of the
Agency FUNAI, we are met by Orlando
Silveira, a bluff, friendly man with
around his temples. Marjon dubs him
He has spent the last thirty years
about half of that time working with
Silveira shows us a satellite map of
Cinta Larga territory. The Roosevelt
appears as a pretty green field of
one spot infected by a squirming pink
- the mining site.
"We have five barriers up,"
Coronel says, pointing to dirt access
leading into the reserve. Each barrier
manned by five FUNAI agents and three
Police. "We do weekly patrols
the reserve-two 4x4s with five men
In addition, there are two Indian families
stationed permanently on the mining
It sounds impressive, I tell him. Also
"There's money enough in the budget
to last to the end of the year,"
"And then?" I ask
"Brasilia will renew the budget,"
"But what, ideally, is your long-term
solution" I ask. "What's
He pauses. "My dream is for the
to do a special pilot project here,"
"Allow the Indians to mine. Only
only in the first two metres of soil.
thing is, they have had contact with
outside world. Not just through FUNAI,
through miners, who have given them
Now that they have cars and air-conditioning,
they won't be going back to their traditional
way of life. They need something that
let them join the modern world."
"What's your nightmare, then?"
"Some big foreign mining company
comes in and gives the Indians royalties."
Jeffrey's proposal, back at the poolside
in Porto Velho.
I tell Silveira I met a man who said
was the dream solution, that a foreign
could mine the diamonds without damaging
the environment, leaving the Indians
on their traditional way of life.
"Indians can't be like cows in
the Colonel growls. "They need
Give them royalties and no work, and
spend it on alcohol and prostitutes,
never develop anything. If they're
to remain a people, they need something
do to keep them in the village."
I tell him I want to go into the reserve.
"Difficult", he says. You
to ask the chiefs for permission, when
if they come to town. They need to
proposal back to the village. Then
needs to come back. Then we have to
It sounds very much like a no.
Leaving, I ask him which he thinks
likely-his dream or his nightmare?
"There are a lot of foreign companies
agitating in Brazil. Canadians,"
says making eye contact. "Men
from aboard with a suitcase full of
that they use to lobby the congress
A sudden image comes to mind of Jan,
forward, alcohol and eagerness on his
Jeffrey knows everyone in Brasilia.
Brazil's mining laws.
"So which is more likely,"
There is one other route in to the
through a Cinta Larga organization
Paerenã, located in the nearby town
The office administrator is not quite
I was expecting in a warrior tribe.
super polite. He wears extra long banana-coloured
leather shoes, and he doesn't so much
as glide, as if he's skating on a pair
We ask about meeting the chief. Most
he has gone for lunch. He should be
in just a tiny moment. With kindness,
we wouldn't mind waiting?
Hours later, with kindness, we're still
We decide to try again the next day.
towards the highway, Marjon insists
for cigarettes, so we pull up to a
store, a shack that faces the highway.
to accents, the storekeeper asks us
"Canada," I reply.
"Canadá," he repeats, accent
the last syllable. "In buying
Which odd subset of Canadians has been
through here, I wonder.
Up above the storekeeper's head I see
Sale of Alcohol to Indians Prohibited.
months prison for offenders.
"Get a lot of Indians in here?"
"A lot of Indians," he agrees.
"Indians. Miners. Gringos. Lots
got sold right here on the porch."
"The buyers. Where were they from?"
"Everywhere. Brazilians. Canadians.
Jews. Japanese. Europeans. The whole
Next day, we meet for lunch with the
FUNAI official in the area, Valdir
Gonçalves. In the aftermath of the
a federal prosecutor was appointed
the killings. I ask Valdir if the prosecutor
has any hope of laying charges. The
sets him off on a tangent.
"The culture of the Cinta Large
kill without discussion," he says.
I must look confused, so Valdir elaborates.
"Look, say we're all Cinta Larga,"
Valdir begins. "You, Marjon, tell me
that Shawn is angry at me. That he plans
to kill me. I won't go and ask Shawn, 'Hey,
what's wrong, maybe we can talk it out.'
I'll go and kill him. No talk. No questions.
No discussion. To ask or discuss among the
Cinta Larga is a sign of weakness."
But the only witnesses to the massacre
the Cinta Larga themselves, I object.
the Indians just say, 'I don't know
it. I don't know what happened?'"
"No," says Valdir. "The
who did it will say, 'I did it.' They
say, 'We killed the miners for a reason,
and this is why we did it'."
Under Brazilian law, Valdir explains,
aboriginals with little exposure to
society cannot be held accountable
laws, if they were acting in accordance
their own cultural norms. Whether an
qualifies as "isolated" is
through the testimony of an anthropologist.
"The anthropologists can't say
didn't have a reason, because they
a reason," says Valdir. "Self-defence."
According to Waldir, there were about
miners in the reserve before the massacre
took place. The Cinta Larga asked them
leave. A hard-core group of about fifty
refused. The Cinta Larga warriors came
escort them out, by force if necessary.
of the miners made a comment, something
'Let's get guns and come back and finish
these Indians off.' Only two-thirds
Cinta Larga speak Portuguese. One who
overheard the miner's comment, and
rest of the warriors. The Cinta Larga
like Cinta Larga.
"I don't think they'll ever go
That afternoon, Marjon and I drive
the rutted roads to Paerenã. Orlando
yellow shoes is still in waiting, but
time so is the president of the organisation,
Chief Raimundo Cinta Larga. He's a
broad man in his twenties, who speaks
- his second language - in awkward,
sentences. His aide, Julio Surui, who
in fluent, elegant Portuguese, is the
who actually does most of the talking.
"We see ourselves as alone,"
begins. "We didn't see it as a
We saw it as self-defence. The same
Brazil was invaded by another country."
In 2000, he explains, when the miners
came in, it was good for the tribe.
made money. Some of the Cinta Larga
with the miners, and learned how to
for diamonds. Then some Indian women
raped. Indian men were attacked and
Between 2002 and 2003, the Cinta Larga
a series of meetings, culminating in
tribal council in May 2003. They decided,
as a people, to remove the white miners,
and carry on mining themselves.
"Now the Federal Police want us
over our warriors," says Chief
"This we will never do."
stops, as if there's nothing more to
His aide jumps in again.
"In Brazil many people are angry
us," says Surui. "We want
to understand that this land for us
our country. The miners coming in was
an invasion. If Brazil was invaded
soldiers killed the invaders, would
be called a massacre? This is what
the Brazilian government to understand.
want them to stop searching for our
We want them to stop saying we are
and blood thirsty."
What about bringing in a big foreign
to do the mining?, I ask.
"We want to exploit minerals to
our people, not to get rich. If there
resources inside our land, we want
them," says Julio. "We want
struggle to make our lives better.
that if we let them enter we will lose
country, our identity, our culture.
can't make us accept someone else,
we don't want."
The foreigners might at least give
prices, I counter. I've heard stories
diamonds worth millions being sold
"We need the support of the government
on this," says Julio. As long
diamonds is illegal, the Indians will
be able to negotiate a fair price for
diamonds, he says. "What we want
for the government to make it legal."
As we leave, Raimundo presents us both
necklaces, finally crafted from Amazon
I make a mental note to take it off
going to meet the miners.
Built atop the remains of an old Indian
near the edge of the Roosevelt Reserve,
d'Oeste is the ultimate outlaw settlement.
It's a town with six sawmills and almost
no legal sources of wood. It is home
of miners with no legal places to mine.
central square, however, is a civilized
out like a Baroque garden with palm-lined
walkways that converge at the centre
there's a tall sploshing fountain.
On April 10, three days after the massacre,
a mob of angry miners dragged an Indian
teacher named Márcio Cinta Larga to
of the pretty square and lashed him
tree near the fountain, threatening
him despite his denials of any involvement
with the massacre. It took a delegation
police more than twelve hours to talk
miners into cutting him free. A few
later, a fourteen-year-old Cinta Larga
on his way into Espigão to visit his
girlfriend, was shot dead by a trio
bent on revenge.
Today, a lazy Sunday afternoon when
typically sit sipping beer and watching
it takes little time to locate a small
bar with a pair of miners happy to
Antonio is short and black and wiry,
has been mining for twenty-five years,
over Brazil, for everything: rubies,
diamonds. He has been two years here
digging for diamonds. "Indians
here," he says, "they don't
little economy cars, they drive big
Bows and arrows, that's all for show,
the media. They have automatic weapons.
What's the biggest diamond he's seen?
karats, wasn't it, the diamond of Panderé,"
Antonio says. "It was sold for
here in Rondônia." About US$1
"That's the biggest I've heard
you see lots of thirty carats, fifty
How is the buying and selling done,
Are there guys wandering the streets
suitcases stuffed with cash?
"In the beginning, yes,"
"Nowadays, a miner who has something
meets with a buyer."
"In a house?" I interrupt.
a bar? Where?"
He looks at me. Pauses. "Somewhere,"
I shut up and he continues. The buyer
a look at the merchandise. A price
upon. The money gets wire transferred
the miner's bank account. Then, and
then, are the diamonds turned over.
At the moment, however, with the police
up, and the Indians on guard, Antonio
not doing any mining. "I won't
it," he says, "but there
who do. If they catch you, you lose
Another younger miner, Paulo, has been listening
in to the conversation and chooses this moment
to jump in. "I went in eight days ago.
I got almost as far as the mining site. Then
the Indians caught me. They gave me to FUNAI.
FUNAI gave me to the Federal Police. The
police took my name, made me promise not
to go back in. Then they let me go."
"Will you go in again?" asks
"Of course. It's the only option
"The government will do something,"
adds Antonio. "The governor promised
we'd get back in working, like before."
Ivo Cassol, state governor of Rondônia
governor, has had a lot to say about
Cinta Larga, the miners, and the Roosevelt
diamonds. Before the massacre, he had
several times in various papers that
diamonds could not be left to the Indians,
alone. After the massacre, he had "raised
his voice to those who cry for justice,"
in "solidarity with the mothers,
and sons of those had been massacred."
Opportunistic blather by a local politician,
I had thought, until after my next
the one that ended with a visit to
The meeting takes place in the second
office of the Espigão surface miners'
Marjon and I troop up the stairs to
the president, Celso Antim, and the
union executive waiting for us. These
are darker, grimmer, angrier.
"The system we had worked fine,"
Antim declares. "It worked fine
someone's eyes got too big."
"Who got too greedy? The Indians?"
"No, not Indians," he says. "Whites.
Indians are like children. This kind of thing
is beyond them. They've been manipulated
by some third party," he tells us, "someone
who wants the diamonds for himself. This
third, that's who is behind the massacres."
It's the first I've heard of more than one
"There's been three," Antim
us. "One in October. Five miners
killed. Seven more killed in December.
this one, in April. Twenty-nine dead."
When I ask who is behind it, Antim
"A multinational, maybe. Or a
We don't know yet."
Before we leave town, the president
we visit the graves. It's well after
but a guard swings open the tall iron
so we can bring our car up close to
the gravesite. The miner who has guided
here speaks once again of a third,
events. His words cast a different
on everything I've seen so far. I had
this was a straightforward conflict
miners and Indians. But maybe there
third party, manipulating miner and
both, for his own hidden ends. Maybe
truth lies buried deeper.
The next day, we stop by the Paerenã
I tell Orlando about our visit to the
and how they think someone else is
"Of course," he says. "The
I've had a day hearing unprovable theories
from the miners. If the governor is
it, I want proof.
"I have photos," says Orlando.
He fetches a thick manila folder and
out articles from Rondônia's two governor-backed
newspapers. An article in the Folha
on September 7, 2003, is headlined,
support, Indians starving." It
a photo of Governor Cassol with three
Largo chiefs, Pio, João Bravo, and
According to the article-bylined "Assesssoria"-the
governor was invited to the reserve,
witnessed misery and hunger, despite
vast diamond deposits beneath their
All lies, says Orlando. We didn't invite
him. We aren't starving. He broke the
Technically, that's true, I think.
is allowed to visit an Indian reserve
an invitation. But if that's the governor's
only crime, it's trivial.
Then Orlando hands over a second document,
a statement by chief João Bravo, stating
that the governor's real purpose in
was to offer a deal. He, the governor,
build health posts for the Indians,
schools, and asphalt the roads inside
reserve, in return for the right to
mechanized diamond extractors inside
reserve, "to recover the state
What Governor Cassol was proposing,
was to use state resources to bribe
leadership to allow him to illegally
diamonds from Indian land.
If true, it's explosive. It means Governor
Cassol is the third party, a corrupt
conspiring to break the law while manipulating
his own constituents-the self-styled
of the miners manoeuvring behind the
to take the diamonds for himself.
When the Indians turned him down, the
got very angry, Orlando says. He took
the state Forest Police that had been
access points to the reserve.
I check the date of the meeting. September
6, 2003. One month later, five miners
killed, the first of the three massacres
mentioned by the mining president the
before. The governor, so-called friend
the miners, has been using them as
in his own ruthless game.
I ask Orlando who actually heard the
make the illegal proposition. The Cinta
chiefs, he replies. "Pio. Raimundo.
João Bravo." Coincidentally, João
is at this very moment visiting the
headquarters in nearby Cacoal.
I race the little Gol over to FUNAI
João Bravo going out the door. He's
man with a sizeable pot belly, but
about him, some gravitas, prevents
blurting out my questions. Instead,
him how old he is, and about the changes
he's seen in his time.
"I am fifty-one years old, thanks
to God. When I was young I didn't know
men. We didn't have cities here. We
have Cacoal. We didn't have Espigão.
have anything. Gora, the god of the
said the white man would come. They
bring sickness. White men came by a
Then a plane came. I didn't know what
was. I thought it was a bird. Helicopters
came and threw bombs. Killed many Indians.
Maybe ten-thousand Indians. Nowadays
are few Indians. I don't know why white
do wrong things."
I tell him I've heard about the meeting
Governor Cassol at his village. "Did
the governor offer schools, health
and roads in exchange for the right
extractor machines on the reserve?"
"The governor proposed to offer
roads, and health clinics," he
"We didn't accept to let him go
"Did he offer this in return for
rights?" I ask.
"It's like this. He wanted to
his equipment in return for services
he would do. The people didn't accept
he got mad and took away the guards
around the reserve."
"The governor took out the police
escalate the situation, to allow more
"He let the miners enter to make
people suffer," says chief João.
"How do you feel about white men?"
"Today, thanks to God, I accept
men," he says. "Previously
not like the white men. My father was
when the white man first came. Many
My father killed one, sent the rest
He pauses, looks at me.
"My father cooked the leg of that
man," he says. "I ate some."
"How did it taste?" I ask.
"Too salty," he says.
[Chief Joao Bravo
Ivo Cassol comes from a family that
its money in wood - cutting, sawing
Since coming to power in 2002, Cassol
run Rondônia like a family enterprise,
his wife, father, sister, brother and
seven other close relatives in key
throughout the state government. "I
would have hired more," he told
Folha de São Paulo, "but I ran
I doubt the governor's response to
allegations will be quite as glib.
him, however, means navigating 500
up the BR-364 to Porto Velho. Before
the drive, we pick up some of the local
Marjon spots a small back-page story
Folha de Rondônia. Governor Cassol
a guest of the newspaper's that very
at the Expo-Jipa Fair in Ji-Parana,
two hundred kilometres from where we
Four hours later we're in the office
Folha de Rondônia, introducing ourselves
as journalists doing coverage on the
development of Rondônia, in search
of a few
quotes from the governor. One of the
invites us to meet him at the newspaper's
tent around 9 p.m. that evening. While
chat, we ask him casually about the
from "Assessoria." It's a
of prepared stories that arrive daily,
editor says, from the governor's office.
The owner of the paper, who also serves
editor-in-chief, chooses which of the
stories to run. They go, unedited,
onto the front pages.
Expo-Jipa, it turns out, is an agricultural
fair. There are stands selling Rodeiro
wire, Husqvarna chain saws, Michelin
tires, and Salmax: "the ultimate
animal nutrition." As we are leaving
the cattle auction we spot the governor
his trademark white Stetson doing an
at the local TV station's pavilion.
the journalist's mic in one hand. His
hand is slung chummily around the interviewer's
shoulder. Journalism, Rondônian style.
When the interview ends I introduce myself
and ask him to state his name for my mini-disk
"I am Ivo Narciso Cassol, governor
the State of Rondônia, Brazil."
I saw in the paper, governor, that you visited
the Cinta Larga Indian Reserve on September
He replies that he tried to enter the
with a film crew, "to show to
that there was illegal exploitation
in our region," but the Indians
let him in.
But in the end, you talked to the chiefs,
"Absolutely," says Cassol,
to make a speech. "What's going
that we're living in a rich country,
Brazil, but unfortunately we live saucer-in-hand
begging alms from other countries,
we don't have the right to exploit
riches. As governor, I don't agree
We have the right to exploit our wealth."
You also said that you saw the Indians
hunger and misery?
"No, this is not the truth, I
say this, no." His tone becomes
"On the contrary, you created
your own account." Except that
written by his own aides have him saying
he saw widespread hunger. Governor's
But in the Folha, it was written as
done by the Assessoria, and the Assessoria
is yours, right?
Cassol is suspicious of me now, and getting
angry. "I think you are trying to create
something that you can sell outside to the
world, something that doesn't exist here,"
he says. "If you want to hear the truth
that's one thing, if you want to create facts
The Assessoria, he says, has nothing
with him. Governor's lie number two.
I continue to press: You offered to
schools and medical clinics for the
"All the indigenous areas have
schools, have to have health clinics.
are civilized people. They live in
It's not just. To be in such a rich
with an indigenous area that rich,
be able to exploit that wealth."
Why did you offer to put twenty mining
onto their land in return for schools
Ivo Narciso Cassol, governor of the
of Rondônia, looks hurt. "I would
least like for you to show me respect,"
he says. "I would prefer you to
do what you are doing, because you're
"You know your proposal was illegal,"
It looks like he is getting ready to
"Why did you take away the Forest
after the Indians turned down your
He tries to walk out. I block his way.
"Are you going to let me speak?"
I give him some room.
"You people didn't have the courage
to preserve anything. So, you of all
have no right to come here making demands
of us," he says. "I don't
machines in the reserve. I never have
I don't need them."
That, at least, is true. But it implies
he never wanted or asked to install
diamond extractor machines. Governor's
He walks off. We chase after, but a
of large men interpose themselves.
Marjon's microphone and rips off the
cover. Police come, demand to see our
We're cast out of Expo-Jipa.
Seven more hours on the pot-holed highway
takes us back to Porto Velho. Another
hours in the air takes me back to Rio
Janeiro. As this article was going
Raimundo, João Bravo, and twenty other
Larga chiefs made their own long journey
to Brasilia, to speak to the Attorney
about the case against their warriors.
also planned to meet with the Minister
Mines and Energy about re-starting
With them, they brought a concrete
Indians would do all the digging, but
allay the government's concerns about
evasion and contraband sales, the Cinta
would agree to sell their entire diamond
production to the government.
The ministry of mines, however, refused
even meet with the chiefs. Chief Raimundo
believes the government already has
in mind. "They have their own
that they want to put on our land,"
The Attorney General also turned them
In Rondônia, Orlando of the yellow
told me the Cinta Larga laid a formal
about the governor's illegal proposal
the local federal prosecutor, the same
charged with looking into the deaths
miners. Nothing has come of it, but
neither have the Cinta Larga allowed
prosecutor to arrest any of their warriors.
On the frontier, laws are more often honoured
in the breach. Very soon, legally or not,
the Indians are going back to diamond mining.
Shawn Blore is a freelance correspondent
based in Rio de Janeiro