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Federal prosecutors, who accuse the Brazilian state of genocide in their civil suit, said hundreds, if not thousands, of tribe members died between and , when highway BR was built. The deaths either happened by military strikes or because of diseases that came after the forceful construction of the road through the reserve, prosecutors said. The Waimiri-Atroari do not measure time in months and years, and instead talk of events in relation to their phase in life. Prosecutors said they believe that the attack Bornaldo witnessed took place after , the year the aggressions intensified.

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The massacre he saw was one of numerous attacks during the construction of a portion of the road that connects the cities of Manaus and Boa Vista, according to prosecutors and tribesmen testifying. All six tribe members testifying said the aggressions came from the Brazilian army while it oversaw the construction of 75 miles kilometers across the Waimiri-Atroari reserve.

At the time, military leaders said the tribe was impeding government employees from building the road.

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However, the military has never acknowledged a role in attacking the tribe. In explaining their own use of violence, Waimiri-Atroari said they were just defending their territory. Compared to South American countries like Chile and Argentina, Brazil has done little to uncover atrocities at the hands of the military, particularly against indigenous peoples.

American Indian Wars

Slender and low-voiced Dawuna Elzo Atroari said he witnessed a blitzkrieg style attack against the tribe in a different incident than the one Bornaldo described. Wildlife is abundant in the region, with sloths, monkeys and jaguars frequently appearing. Bayous filled with fly-attracting pink flowers can be seen from the road.

Not far from it, the trees become leafier and taller. The Waimiri-Atroari close off the road with a massive chain each day at 6 p. It only reopens at 6 a. In , a Brazilian truth commission said more than 8, members of indigenous tribes could have been killed at the hands of authoritarian regimes between and , the vast majority during the dictatorship.

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The decision would allow him to avoid consulting the Waimiri-Atroari, as the law demands. Brazil now buys energy from crisis-ridden Venezuela to supply the isolated Northern state. Explainer: What happened on Bloody Sunday in ? More from The Irish Times Books.

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