RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil ó As the coronavirus spreads into indigenous lands in Brazil, killing at least 40 people so far by the governmentís count, the first two COVID-19 deaths were registered this week in the Xingu area, one of the biggest reserves in the world.
fatalities were in the Kayapo indigenous group, which has reported a total of
22 virus cases. The community’s leader, Megaron, told The Associated Press he
wants President Jair Bolsonaro and other officials to stop loggers, miners and
fishermen from illegally entering the territory, incursions he believes have
sped up the spread of the virus.
has encouraged development in the Amazon, regardless of indigenous lands,
although the state-run indigenous agency, FUNAI, issued an order in mid-March
barring access to those lands because of the virus. Still, reports in Brazilian
media have said missionaries, health care agents, loggers and miners carried
the virus into those areas.
not us that are leaving and taking (the virus). There are people seizing this
disease to invade indigenous land,” Megaron said.
received questions from AP on May 13, but his team wasn’t able to get his
response back until Wednesday due to their remote location in Xingu, which
covers more than 2,600,000 hectares (more than 10,000 square miles) in the
middle of Brazil. It is home to more than 5,500 indigenous people of 14 ethnic
who is a nephew of acclaimed environmentalist Raoni Metuktire, said his
community now lives in fear because of the coronavirus.
the government’s obligation to take care of our land, our community, give us
help, care, even more now because this disease is killing a lot of people. Our
request is to be isolated in our village until the government or the health
ministry say there is no more COVID-19,” he said.
obtained by AP contains footage dated Monday showing a dozen indigenous men
blocking the entrance of a Kayapo village.
has been slow in doing its job, members of its own staff in the Amazon told AP
last week, speaking on condition of anonymity because of concerns about
retribution. The agency replied that it has adopted “all the measures within
its reach” for the pandemic, including the distribution of food and personal
the government lists 40 coronavirus deaths of indigenous people inside the
reserves, activists say about 150 in all have died in Brazil, including in
cities. The toll is likely higher, because hospitals often don’t use patients’
indigenous names when admitting them.
is a strong critic of environmentalist groups and nonprofit organizations that
work with indigenous people. He also contends there has been an overreaction to
the coronavirus and argues against lockdowns ordered by local officials, saying
the economic disruptions from the crisis will kill more than the virus.
Minister Ricardo Salles, a key ally of the country’s agribusiness lobby,
contended at a Cabinet meeting on April 22 that Bolsonaro act while the focus
is on the pandemic to push through deregulation of environmental policies.
from monitoring group Imazon showed deforestation in the Amazon hit a 10-year
high in April, with almost 529 square kilometers (just over 200 square miles)
of forest knocked down. Much of that harm, analysts say, comes from illegal
loggers and miners.
Press video journalist Yesica Fisch reported this story in Rio de Janeiro and
AP writer Mauricio Savarese reported from Sao Paulo.