Brazil’s government declared a public health emergency for the Yanomami indigenous people, now plagued by rising death rates from curable diseases and malnutrition. President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva flew to the remote Yanomami territory in Roraima state after horrifying photographs emerged of emaciated Yanomami children and adults. After his visit, Lula tweeted: “More than a humanitarian crisis, what I saw in Roraima was genocide: a premeditated crime against the Yanomami, committed by a government insensitive to suffering.” This was a reference to the previous far-right government of Jair Bolsonaro, under whose presidency gold miners and illegal loggers flooded into Yanomami territory, bringing disease and destroying the forest that the people depends on for sustenance. Interior Minister Flávio Dino said he will order an investigation into “strong indications” the Yanomami had suffered crimes including genocide–meaning the deliberate attempt to partially or completely destroy an ethnic, national, racial or religious group. (Photo: Mongabay)
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)
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)
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.)
Thousands of illegal gold-miners (garimpeiros) have invaded Yanomami Park, one of Brazil’s largest indigenous reserves, covering 96,650 square kilometers of rainforest in the states of Roraima and Amazonas, near the border with Venezuela. An incursion of this scale has not occurred for a generation, bringing back memories among Yanomami elders of the terrible period in the late 1980s, when some 40,000 garimpeiros moved onto their lands and about a fifth of the indigenous population died in just seven years due to violence, malaria, malnutrition, mercury poisoning and other causes. (Photo via Mongabay)
On his first day in office, President Jair Bolsonaro issued a measure taking away responsibility for indigenous land demarcation from the indigenous affairs agency, FUNAI, and handing it over to the Agriculture Ministry. In the same decree, Bolsonaro shifted authority over regularization of quilombos (Afro-Brazilian collective lands) from the agrarian reform institute, INCRA, to the Agriculture Ministry. The measure greatly weakens FUNAI, taking away its most important function. In practice, key areas of indigenous and quilombo policy will now be in the hands of agribusiness advocates—a long-time demand of the Bancada Ruralista (agribusiness lobby) in Congress. Bolsonaro is openly calling for abolition of Brazil's large indigenous reserves, a move with grave implications for the Amazon rainforest and global climate. (Photo: Kayapo women in Brazilian Amazon, via FUNAI)
Members of the Pemón indigenous people blocked the landing strip of Venezuela's Canaima National Park in protest of illegal miners operating on their lands.
Davi Kopenawa, shaman and internationally renowned spokesman for Brazil's Yanomami people, has demanded urgent police protection following a series of death threats.
Venezuela's Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of Amazonas (COIAM) issued a statement rejecting a government decree to expand mining in the rainforest region.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights urged Venezuelan authorities “to conduct a thorough investigation” into claims of a massacre at a remote Yanomami setlement.
Venezuelan officials investigating the reported massacre of an isolated Yanomami community say they found no evidence of the attack—a claim dismissed by indigenous advocates.
Venezuelan authorities pledge to investigate breaking reports that outlaw miners comitted a “massacre” of an isolated Yanomami indigenous community on the Brazilian border.