Venezuela officials: No sign of killings in Amazon

AP News
Posted: Sep 07, 2012 9:03 PM
Venezuela officials: No sign of killings in Amazon

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan state television on Friday showed images of a remote indigenous community in the Amazon where officials say they've found no sign of bloodshed despite a report of a mass killing there.

In the footage, Yanomami Indians are squatting and walking around in the village, where hammocks hang in a hut.

Brig. Gen. Jesus Zambrano Mata, who traveled there with other military officers and journalists, said that officials found no sign of any killings and that all was peaceful in the area. After visiting various villages, officials determined that "absolutely nothing happened," he said.

Leaders of the Horonami Yanomami Organization released a statement last week saying visitors to the village of Irotatheri had reported a massacre of unknown proportions, with perhaps dozens of people slain.

Luis Shatiwe, a leader of the Horonami group, said last week that the account of killings had been relayed through villagers in nearby communities. He said that people from another village reportedly had seen victims' charred remains and talked with survivors. Shatiwe didn't return phone calls Friday, and other leaders of the group couldn't be reached.

State television said 42 people live in the village of Irotatheri, which it described as 19 kilometers (12 miles) from the border with Brazil.

Issam Madi, a sociologist and anthropologist who has worked in nearby indigenous communities, said people in the area told him that some Yanomami had apparently invented a story of mass bloodshed for their own purposes.

Madi said that according to people he knows in the jungle area, three villagers from the area of Irotatheri were ambushed and killed July 2 while on a river near the village of Platanal. He said it seems Yanomami Indians in the place where those killings occurred had feared revenge and wanted the military to send a helicopter in order to intimidate the other villagers and give the impression they had soldiers on their side.

"Those of us who know that area know that ambushes are frequent," Madi said by phone from the town of Santa Elena de Uairen. "In this case, the only different thing is that some very creative person thought up the idea of inventing the massacre, because it's the only way to force a military helicopter to go to the area."