The Amazon
yanomami

Amazon indigenous concerns grow over COVID-19

Four months after COVID-19 was first suspected of spreading to indigenous communities in the Amazon Basin, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghereyesus, said at a press conference that the WHO is “deeply concerned” by the pandemic’s impact on native populations. He singled out the recently contacted Nahua people in Peru, six of whom have caught the virus. The OAS has also called on Brazil to protect the Yanomami people, who may have been infected by government health workers. Poverty, malnutrition, and the prevalence of communicable diseases put indigenous people at greater risk from coronavirus. (Photo: Mongabay)

The Amazon
Manuin

Peru: Bagua survivor succumbs to COVID-19

A revered leader of Peru’s Awajún indigenous people, Santiago Manuin Valera, 63, died of COVID-19 at a hospital in the coastal city of Chiclayo. Head apu (traditional chief) of Santa María de Nieva in Amazonas region, Manuin was gravely wounded in the Bagua massacre of June 2009, when National Police opened fire on indigenous protesters. Hit with eight bullets, he was left for dead. Against all expectations, he recovered—although he had to use crutches or a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He continued to be an outspoken advocate for the territorial rights of the Awajún and other indigenous peoples of rainforest. His daughter, Luz Angélica Manuin, warned of a dire situation in the Awajún communities and across the Peruvian Amazon, with COVID-19 taking a grave toll. “There are many dead,” she said. “We keep vigil over them and we bury them. The government has forgotten us.” (Photo: Andina)

The Amazon
TIPNIS

Bolivia: IACHR to hear TIPNIS case

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) formally agreed to hear a complaint filed by 64 indigenous communities in Bolivia’s eastern rainforest, accusing the Bolivian state of violating their territorial rights under the administration of ousted president Evo Morales. The complaint charges that Bolivian authorities undertook to build a highway through the Isiboro-Sécure National Park & Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS) without consulting or obtaining the consent of indigenous inhabitants. It also alleges that the government illegally used force to break up the cross-country “VIII Indigenous March” that was called to protest the road construction in 2011. (Photo via Bolivia Diary)

Planet Watch
landgrab

Destruction of nature linked to new pandemics

Leaders from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Health Organization and the World Wide Fund for Nature joined to issue a stark warning that pandemics such as COVID-19 are a direct result of the destruction of nature caused by human activity. In an op-ed published by The Guardian, top figures from each organization state that the destruction of forests and other habitats, coupled with trafficking in wildlife, is causing a growing number of animal diseases to migrate to human hosts. In a call to action ahead of the UN Biodiversity Summit, the three representatives cite prior examples of environmental destruction that triggered new virus outbreaks in humans. (Photo: Schadomski/DW, used with permission)

The Amazon
Amazon deaths

COVID-19: Amazon indigenous groups fear the worst

Indigenous leaders are warning that a combination of neglect, inadequate preparations, and a lack of lockdown measures is exposing remote and vulnerable communities in the Amazon to potentially devastating outbreaks of COVID-19. The major Amazon River ports of Manaus and Iquitos are among the hardest hit cities in South America, and deaths are already reported from indigenous communities deep in the rainforest, where health services are virtually non-existent. Communities already threatened by wildfires and illegal logging could be pushed to the brink in the coming months. (Photo: InfoRegión)

The Amazon
uncontacted

COVID-19 threatens Amazonian peoples

As COVID-19 spreads around the globe, with more than 200 deaths already reported in Brazil, an evangelical Christian organization has purchased a helicopter with plans to contact and convert isolated indigenous groups in the remote Western Amazon. Ethnos360, formerly known as the New Tribes Mission, is notorious for past attempts to contact and convert isolated peoples, having spread disease among the Zo’é living in northern Pará state. Once contacted in the 1980s, the Zo’é, lacking resistance, began dying from malaria and influenza, losing over a third of their population. Ethnos360 is planning its conversion mission despite the fact that FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, has a longstanding policy against contact with isolated groups. The so-called “missionary aviation” contact plan may also violate Brazil’s 1988 constitution and international treaties. (Photo: “Uncontacted” tribe in Acre state photographed from FUNAI helicopter in 2011. Via Mongabay.)

The Amazon
Bagua defendants

Peru: high court upholds acquittal of Bagua defendants

More than 10 years after the Bagua massacre in the Peruvian Amazon, sparked when National Police troops attacked a roadblock by indigenous protesters, a magistrate at the penal chamber of Peru’s Supreme Court of Justice absolved 53 of the protesters, who had faced criminal charges. A lower court had cleared the accused protesters, all indigenous Amazonians, in September 2016. Last year, the high court confirmed this ruling on charges of homicide, assault and theft of police firearms. But charges of riot, disruption of public services and illegal firearm possession remained outstanding until this second decision. Peru’s Legal Defense Institute, which represented the defendants, also called on the high court to review the light sentences given to six National Police officers, including three generals, who were convicted by a police tribunal in relation to the massacre but are now all free. (Photo: IDL)

The Amazon
Sierra del Divisor

Court bars oil exploitation in Peru’s Sierra del Divisor

A court in Peru’s Loreto region issued an order blocking all oil exploration or exploitation within a vast area of the Amazon rainforest along the Brazilian border, citing the presence of isolated or “uncontacted” peoples in the zone and the impossibility of obtaining their “prior consultation.” The order affects three oil blocs within Sierra del Divisor National Park. The case was brought in 2017 by the Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Oriente (ORPIO), challenging the move by state agency PeruPetro to auction leases for the blocs. (Photo: Mongabay)

South Asia

Modi and Bolsonaro: twin threat to tribal peoples

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro met in New Delhi, pledging a “new chapter” in cooperation between their two countries, especially naming counter-terrorism and exploitation of minerals, hydrocarbons and other natural resources. The juxtaposition of security concerns and extractivism is telling, as both leaders prepare to repress opposition to their plans to open the traditional territories of indigenous peoples to industrial interests. (Photo: Survival International)

The Amazon
Amazon burning

ICC receives request to investigate Bolsonaro

Groups including Brazil’s Human Rights Advocacy Collective (CADHu) and the Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns Commission for Human Rights (Comissão Arns) submitted a written recommendation to Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), reporting the need for a preliminary examination into genocide and systematic attacks against indigenous people by the government of President Jair Bolsonaro. (Photo: pixundfertig/Pixabay via Jurist)

The Amazon
Pachamama

‘Dubia Cardinal’ rages against Pachamama

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, one of the two remaining “dubia cardinals” who dissented from a perceived liberal tilt in the Catholic Church, praised the men who stole the controversial “Pachamama statues” from a church in Rome during last month’s Amazon Synod and threw them into the Tiber River. The German cardinal hailed the perpetrators as “courageous prophets of today.” The statues, representing the Earth Mother deity of many traditional peoples in South America, had been used in events and rituals during the Amazon Synod, which brought together 185 bishops from across the Amazon Basin. The Synod was also attended by indigenous leaders, and issued a final statement stressing the threat of climate change and the need for a concept of “ecological sin.” (Photo: National Catholic Reporter)

The Amazon
Forest Guardian

‘Forest Guardian’ assassinated in Brazilian Amazon

A young indigenous Guajajara leader was murdered in the Brazilian Amazon, raising concerns about escalating violence against forest protectors under the government of President Jair Bolsonaro. Paulo Paulino Guajajara, 26, was shot in the head and killed in an ambush in the Araribóia Indigenous Reserve, in the northeast state of Maranhão. Paulo was a member of “Guardians of the Forest,” a group of 120 indigenous Guajajara that organize volunteer patrols to fight illegal logging in the Araribóia reserve, one of the country’s most threatened indigenous territories. (Photo of Paulo Paulino Guajajara via Mongabay)