São Paulo, Brazil – Brazil’s Air Force on Monday intercepted an unidentified aircraft that was flying in airspace over the Yanomami Indigenous Land, a protected territory in the Amazon that has been invaded in recent years by illegal miners and loggers.
Air traffic in the region has been restricted since January of last year when President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed a decree creating the “Defense Identification Zone” over the Yanomami reserve.
The measure was taken to contain the spread of illegal mining in the region, with air transport widely used by miners entering the Indigenous territory and leaving with illegally extracted gold.
Authorities suspect the single-engine Cessna 182 — which was intercepted over the Indigenous reserve by E-99 and R-99 aircraft as well as an A-29 Super Tucano turboprop plane — was transporting miners.
Contacted by radio, the pilot of the intercepted plane refused to provide information about its route and also did not obey orders to leave the region, according to authorities. Two bursts of warning shots were fired by the Air Force and the Cessna 182 ended up landing on a dirt runway. The clandestine aircraft was seized by the Federal Police, but the pilot managed to escape.
Since last year, the Yanomami Indigenous Territory has been at the center of a series of emergency measures adopted by the Brazilian government to remove around 8,000 land grabbers from the region, including miners and loggers.
On January 9, President Lula announced that the Brazilian government would spend R$1.2 billion (USD $245 million) to help guarantee the protection, health, and food security of the estimated 27,152 Yaomami people living on the demarcated Indigenous land.