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Amazon in the face of the pandemic

As with the rest of the world, Brazil is among the countries affected by the coronavirus (Covid19) and the peoples from the Amazon have been experiencing difficult times, due to the pandemic


The worrying scenario, due to the advance in the number of people contaminated and the resulting deaths in recent months, also affects the Amazon region. Firstly, because despite their natural wealth, the rivers, the forests and all the existing biodiversity, the majority of the states that form the Amazônia Legal [Legal Amazon] do not have a good quality public healthcare infrastructure. This reality is even more serious when it concerns the rural and traditional peoples and communities, with the absence of a specific plan for the countryside, with the purpose of preventing and treating the risks and contamination by the virus.

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However, while the majority of the population is focused on news about the progress of the coronavirus, the predatory actions by illegal loggers, land grabbers, miners and invaders of indigenous territories and traditional communities, as well as in preservation areas, continue to occur. Taking advantage of the suspension of inspections, the constant presence of these invaders has left many peoples from the Amazon concerned, both with respect to the danger of contamination, as well as the increase in conflicts and deforestation.

"While everyone is trying to protect themselves by staying quarantined at home, the loggers are having a party," said a farmer from the west of Pará, who has received death threats from groups of loggers. Registered in the Program for the Protection of the Defenders of Human Rights of the State of Pará, the farmer reports that times are hard, because “With the paralysis of the agencies, it seems that everything is fair game for the loggers to take the advantage to end once and for all with the forest that still remains in our settlement,” he added. In fact, in 2020, the deforestation has already exceeded the index from last year, according to data from Inpe notifications. When someone from Ibama tried to react by inspecting villages in Pará, he was sacked.

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This renewed impetus to occupy and seize control of lands in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic is not unrelated to the procedure of Provisional Measure no 910/2019, with the Mixed Commission of the National Congress, which discusses land regularization.

In the state of Acre, the number of fires has been increasing considerably. According to the INPE, between January 1 and April 11, 2020, the fires increased by 125% in the state. It is visible in Rio Branco, and when the sun comes out there are already clouds of smoke around the city. Even more worrying is that this is not a period when there are usually fires, because it is still the rainy season.

In this regard, the indigenous peoples and traditional communities are those who suffer the most. The contagion to isolated peoples and those at risk of extinction could even be intentional, as a representative from the National Pastoral Commission of the Land (CPT) warned, adding that the Xavante indigenous peoples, in Mato Grosso, have been suffering from more attacks precisely because of the removal of agencies.

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In Alcântara, in Maranhão, the risk of eviction is still very high, despite the government having postponed the date, due to the pandemic. Even so, soldiers from the Alcântara Launch Center, at an inappropriate time and placing the residents at risk of contagion, were in the Peptal community, wanting to address matters relating to the regularization of lands and houses. According to the Quilombola communities there, people are still very afraid that the possibility of eviction will come back even stronger. It was in the same state where yet another Guajajara indigenous leader had his life cut short, on March 31, 2020, and another leader was shot a few days later in T.I. Arariboia. The communities in Maranhão continue to be violated, by forced evictions, intimidations, death threats and murders to order.

In Rondônia, at dawn on the 18th of the month, the indigenous native Ari Uru Eu Au Au was murdered, in a territory that suffers from continuous invasions. The Missionary Indigenist Council (CIMI) reported that Karipuna indigenous natives were surprised to see four invaders cutting down an area of ​​forest less than ten kilometers from the Panorama Village, where they live and are currently in isolation, seeking to protect themselves from the new coronavirus pandemic. It has also been proven that many cattle breeders have taken advantage of the lack of inspections to destroy the last remains of forest on their properties, including the reserves on the banks of narrow waterways. There has been significant activity with crawler tractors that continue to fell and line up timber in Rio Preto and Rio Machado, on the state limit of Amazonas. In Vilhena, police officers have been accused of acting outside judicial orders, evicting the occupants from lot 5, sector 12, of Gleba Corumbiara

Also, in the west of Pará, the indigenous natives from the Munduruku ethnic group denounced an invasion of loggers in the Sawré My Bu territory, located in the middle of the Tapajós region, where the loggers threatened the indigenous leaders. The invasion of the territory has been a constant reality and several complaints to the competent agencies have already been made.

In Amazonas, disproving the belief that the coronavirus would not proliferate with the heat of the tropical areas, the pandemic has already overwhelmed the limited medical capacities of the metropolis of Manaus, which concentrates most of the state's population. However, the highest mortality rate corresponds to the deaths in the interior of the state, due to the lack of sufficient healthcare resources, while the disease expands following the main rivers: the Solimões, Rio Negro, Purus and Madeira. It is in Amazonas where the coronavirus is victimizing the most indigenous people in Brazil: in the Tikuna villages, in the city of Manaus and in Parintins.

The state of Amapá is only behind Amazonas for the worst contamination index of the North Region. There are reports that many soybean farmers have taken advantage of the absence of the authorities to invade areas belonging to small farmers.

In Roraima, the territory of the Yanomami people has been invaded by approximately 20,000 miners, which involves the arrival and departure of speedboats and ferries on the rivers, in addition to clandestine flights, generating a circulation without any control or inspection. On April 9, the first case of Covid-19 diagnosed in a 15-year-old Yanomami was lethal, which indicates the size of the risk of this virus for this population. A genuine genocide could occur by the omission of the State. Another four territories in Roraima have also been invaded by miners

In the face of this reality, the Organization of the Pastoral Commission of the Land (CPT) of the Amazon has approached the public to denounce the increase in deforestation, the fires and the violence in the states of the Brazilian Amazon, as well as the constant presence of loggers, land grabbers, miners and agribusiness and mining companies, which continue to advance into the indigenous territories and traditional communities. In this way, through contagion, they seriously endanger the lives of the people, who are already in a vulnerable situation and are already threatened, for defending their lives and the forest.

We reject the way in which the State has omitted itself in the several cases of violence in the countryside in this pandemic context, and we call for the resumption of actions of environmental inspection, public security and the protection of leaders in threatened situations, both in measures that are capable of collaborating with the guarantee of the social isolation of the Amazon peoples against the coronavirus, as well as in the guarantee of the integrity of life and the dignity of humankind.

ORGANIZATION OF THE CPT OF THE AMAZON

April 22, 2020.

*This text was originally published on the website of the Pastoral Commission of the Land

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iCS - Institute for Climate and Society 2020 | All rights reserved

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