The Ashaninka people living in the Kampa do Rio Amônia Indigenous Reserve recently won a case in federal court against illegal logger groups in a historic end to a two-decade dispute.

On April 1, 2020, the Prosecutor General of the Republic signed a settlement that guaranteed the tribe a compensation of nearly $3 million U.S. dollars and an official apology in reparations for cutting down thousands of mahogany, cedar and other tree species to supply the European furniture industry more than 40 years ago.

Twenty-Year Dispute

The legal dispute between the indigenous tribe and the lumber companies owned by the Cameli family lasted for more than two decades. The Ashaninka tribe prevailed in their first court case and the Superior Court of Justice.

The case stalled after it reached Brazil's federal Supreme Court in 2011. An extrajudicial settlement was imposed. It took over a year of regular negotiation for both parties to agree to terms.

A notification posted on the Federal Public Ministry's website celebrated the historic settlement, saying the enforcement of the constitution appreciated the indigenous people's rights to a decent life and taking part in crucial political decisions.

"The case will define hundreds of thousands of cases on massive environmental crimes in Brazil," Antonio Rodrigo, the attorney for Ashaninka, said.

The Superior Cout of Justice and the Supreme Court will now maintain that all environmental damage cannot be overturned. They also ruled that future environmental cases will not a statute of limitations. Placing limitations, Rodrigo said, will deny future generations the right to fight for a healthy environment.

As such, the $3 million will be paid to the tribe over five years. The compensation will be applied to projects benefiting the community, the Amazon, and the peoples of the rainforest.

Area Wildlife

Amazon has been a victim of deforestation and other destructive environmental projects over the years. In Creporizao, a remote town in the south of the forest lives patches of muddy brown brought about by illegal gold mines.

Wildcat miners are one of the causes of widespread destruction of the Amazon rainforest. The pits are often located on indigenous lands protected under Brazil's 1988 Constitution.

Recent surveys show that 86 percent of all Brazilians are opposed to mining on indigenous territories. However, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly voiced support for mining and logging in the area. He has opened up the Amazon to commercial development, causing roughly 51 percent of the entire rainforest to be cut down.

The president's words emboldened many gangs and individuals to participate in gathering resources in the Amazon. Some have resorted to killing indigenous leaders and environmentalists.

Experts and activists warn of the devastating effects of illegal logging and wildcat mining in the area, saying it will lead to the death of indigenous culture and people if it does not stop.

The presence of outsiders does not only pose a health threat to tribe members, but it also fosters prostitution and drug addiction. Gold mining activity also kills fishes--their primary source of nutrition--through mercury poisoning.

Local tribes rely on the rivers for food and water needs. The mercury in the water can cause severe cognitive and visual impairment. It also contributes to deformed fetuses.

Erik Jennings, a neurologist, began a study on mercury levels on over 112 tribespeople. "It's slow genocide," he said.

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