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South America

They were members of an uncontacted tribe gathering eggs along the river in a remote part of the Amazon – then, it appears, they had the bad luck of running into gold miners.

The Brazilian agency on indigenous affairs, Funai, said it had lodged a complaint with the prosecutor’s office in the state of Amazonas after the gold miners went to a bar in a near the border with Colombia, and bragged about the killings.

The prosecutor in charge of the case, Pablo Luz de Beltrand, confirmed that an investigation had begun, but said he could not discuss the details of the case while it was underway.

Mr. Beltrand said it was the second such episode that he was investigating this year – the first reported killing of uncontacted Indians in the region occurred in February, and that case is still open.

Survival International, a global indigenous rights group, warned that given the small sizes of the uncontacted Amazon tribes, this latest episode could mean that a significant percentage of a remote ethnic group was wiped out.

“If the investigation confirms the reports, it will be yet another genocidal massacre resulting directly from the Brazilian government’s failure to protect isolated tribes — something that is guaranteed in the Constitution,” said Sarah Shenker, a senior campaigner with the rights group. nytimes.com
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has introduced a bill to legalise gay marriage, the latest in a series of recent reforms in a country long regarded as one of Latin America’s most socially conservative.

Bachelet signed the proposal, which will be sent to lawmakers, at a ceremony in the presidential palace.

She said the measure seeks to expand the definition of marriage between a man and a woman and would also expand rights for gay couples, allowing them to adopt children.

“We can’t let old prejudices be stronger than love,” Bachelet said.

Chile approved civil unions for same-sex couples in 2015 and decriminalised gay sex in 1999.

The bill comes a week after Chile’s Constitutional Court upheld a measure that would end the country’s absolute ban on abortions. independent.co.uk
Brazil's government has abolished a vast national reserve in the Amazon to open up the area to mining.

The area, covering 46,000 sq km (17,800 sq miles), straddles the northern states of Amapa and Para, and is thought to be rich in gold, and other minerals.

The government said nine conservation and indigenous land areas within it would continue to be legally protected, but activists have voiced concern that these areas could be badly compromised.

The mining and energy ministry says protected forest areas and indigenous reserves will not be affected.

"The objective of the measure is to attract new investments, generating wealth for the country and employment and income for society, always based on the precepts of sustainability," the ministry said in a statement, but opposition Senator Randolfe Rodrigues denounced the move as "the biggest attack on the Amazon of the last 50 years".

Maurício Voivodic, head of the conservation body WWF in Brazil, warned last month that mining in the area would lead to "demographic explosion, deforestation, the destruction of water resources, the loss of biodiversity and the creation of land conflict". bbc.com
Heavily armed Brazilian army troops and police launched a pre-dawn crackdown Saturday on gangs operating out of slums across Rio de Janeiro, following a steep rise in crime.

Five favelas were targeted by the combined forces in a swoop that started in the early hours, the Rio state security service said in a statement, and their main goal was to stop gangs behind a surge in brazen robberies of commercial trucks.

"The armed forces are responsible for the perimeters in some of these regions and based at strategic points," the state security service said, adding: "Some roads are blocked and the airspace is restricted to civilian flights over the sectors where the armed forces are operating."

In the first half of this year the city tallied 3,457 homicides, the highest level of violence since 2009 and 15 percent more than during the same period in 2016.

Many people are killed in gun fire between rival gangs competing for control of the favelas.

Heavily armed Rio police also battle with the gangs, with shootouts between the two sides often leading to injuries and deaths among bystanders, and since the beginning of the year 93 police officers have also been killed in Rio. france24.com
Chile set aside 11 million acres of land for national parks aided by the largest private land donation from a private entity to a country.

The conservation effort of the Tompkins Foundation helped pave the way for Chile to greatly expand its conservation of the pristine Patagonia wilderness.

The Tompkins foundation was established by Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the previous CEO of Patagonia, and the late Doug Tompkins, the co-founder of North Face and Esprit.

The couple, known for purchasing large chunks of land in Patagonia for conservation, have always had the ambition to protect and conserve the Patagonian wilderness for generations to come.

The Tompkins Foundation of one million acres will help form a network of 17 national parks along Patagonia that spans most of Chile. 

This donation will aid efforts in "rewilding" Patagonia, an effort to roll back decades of development and deforestation.  forbes.com
An Aztec tower made up of at least 676 human skulls has been unearthed in the depths of Mexico City.

While the Aztecs were hardly known as the “shy and retiring” types when it came to war and death, this discovery is leading archaeologists to believe this ancient culture was even more brutal than previously assumed.

Within this well-known archaeological treasure chest, they recently found hundreds of skulls and thousands of fragments of bone molded into a limestone cylinder, Reuters news agency reports.

"We were expecting just men, obviously young men, as warriors would be, and the thing about the women and children is that you'd think they wouldn't be going to war," Rodrigo Bolanos, a biological anthropologist, told Reuters.

The excavation, which started in 2015, is still ongoing and continually pumping out fascinating finds.

Just last month, archaeologists working on the site also discovered an area containing an ancient Aztec temple, a ball court, and a potential sacrificial area. iflscience.com
Brazilian President Michel Temer has been charged with accepting bribes by the country's chief prosecutor.

He is accused of receiving money from the boss of a giant meatpacking firm implicated in a corruption scandal, but Mr Temer denies any wrongdoing.

The charges have been delivered to a Supreme Court judge who must now decide if the case can be sent to the lower house of parliament.

The lower house would vote on whether President Temer should be tried.

Mr Temer has vowed to prove his innocence. He has faced a slew of accusations since taking office last year but these are the first formal charges against him. bbc.com
Imagine if the Watergate investigation had led not only to the downfall of President Nixon, but also to allegations against his successor, plus the Speaker of the House, the leader of the Senate, a third of the cabinet, and more than 90 members of Congress.

That gives you some idea of what's happening in Brazil right now.

The country is suffering through one of its worst recessions in history and a crisis of leadership caused in large part by a massive corruption investigation.

In Curitiba – a city far from the ruling elites of Brasilia and Sao Paulo – a small band of prosecutors is working long hours in cramped quarters on the biggest investigation Brazil has ever seen -- Operation Car Wash.

The prosecutors say Brazil's popular former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was the mastermind of the scheme and they've charged him with corruption and money-laundering.

 The once powerful leader of the lower house has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. cbsnews.com