“The interest in the Amazon isn’t in the Indian or in the fucking tree, it’s in the ore!”

On October 2, 2019, President Jair Bolsonaro, perched on a chair in front of the Planalto Palace, addressed half a dozen survivors of Serra Pelada, who asked for the intervention of the Armed Forces to reopen the largest open-air mine. of the world, where few made their fortune and most of that army of more than 100,000 adventurers returned to their places of origin, as miserable as they came.

“You were happy in Figueiredo’s time. The legislation was different and I have to comply with the law. That’s why I say to you: if I have legal protection, I’ll put the Armed Forces there”, promised the captain in his first year of government, four decades after the discovery of the deposit in southeastern Pará. The garimpo remains closed.

Now that a clandestine squadron of more than 300 miners’ barges has been discovered advancing along the Madeira River, 113 km from Manaus, in Amazonas, towards indigenous reserves, an invasion already called the Serra Pelada fluvial, it would be good to remember what it was that crazy rush to gold, in the beginning of the 80s of the last century, already in the throes of the military dictatorship.


Once upon a time there was a military man named Major Curió, the code name of Sebastião Rodrigues de Moura. Appointed plenipotentiary military interventor by General Figueiredo, he commanded with an iron fist an army that gathered more than 100,000 men, stuffed into the open craters in Serra Pelada, in southeastern Pará.

Bullfinch was the last symbol of the dictatorship, with life and death power over the miserable civilians, mostly farmers expelled from their land in southwestern Maranhão, who dropped everything and ran in search of gold “as never seen before” in the land from Serra Pelada, 150 km from Marabá.

This story I know from the beginning, it is not to be heard. And I followed it until its melancholy end, ten years later, I even wrote a book, in 1984, with a series of articles published in Folha, in partnership with photographer Jorge Araújo, released by Editora Brasiliense: “Serra Pelada _ Uma wounda naberta na Jungle”, which later became film, with the few stubborn miners left over there in the shacks covered by black canvas, suffering an epidemic of leprosy and aids, without medical assistance, when the gold ran out.

I was one of the first reporters to enter there, along with photographer Ubirajara Dettmar, in a shabby single-engine, piloted by an Angolan refugee, the only one I found in Marabá with the courage to go down that improvised track where the miners circulated. It was the first time I heard a plane honk for people to get out of the way.

Once on dry land, I was faced with the scariest scene I had ever seen – thousands of men lined up, risking their lives, climbing with heavy sandbags on makeshift ladders called “Goodbye Mom.” To this day, it is not known how many died there.

This is the scenario that Bolsonaro now wants to spread throughout the Amazon, with the general liberation of the mines in indigenous lands and the deactivation of the control bodies, as he promised during the electoral campaign, and it is fulfilling.

In 2019 alone, 160 invasions of indigenous lands were recorded, according to the CIMI (Conselho Indigenista Missionário). In May 2020, the captain received Major Curíó, with all the honors and the right to photos, in an audience at the Palácio do Planalto.

Following this pace of opening of new mines, out of control deforestation and fires, soon there will be no more Indians or trees to tell the story of the Amazon.

Only the minerals in the subsoil, the cattle in the pasture and the mechanized soy plantations will remain.

And there are still exactly 401 days before this government ends.

Life that starts over.

In time: congratulations to reporter Juliana Dal Piva, here at UOL, for winning the 2021 Women’s Press Trophy

Leave a Reply