A group of high-profile global figures including Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey, and Madonna has urged Brazil president Jaire Bolsonaro to take immediate actions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 into the indigenous Amazon tribes.
Lead by photojournalist Sebastião Salgado, the open letter to the president demanded army-led taskforce to evict the entry of illegal loggers and gold miners – potential carriers of Covid-19 into the vulnerable tribes.
If steps to prevent the spread of Covid-19 infection into these indigenous groups are not checked, their very existence would be under threat.
Experts for remote aborigines fear that a potential Covid-19 spread among them could wipe their existence further since they don’t have access to proper healthcare and are unable to socially distance themselves adequately.
The Amazon rainforests, where over 100 ethnic groups reside, are often ransacked by wildcat loggers and gold miners illegally intruding their territories.
Photo by Raphael Nogueira on Unsplash
In the past, trespassing activities by the European colonies bought diseases into these vulnerable groups killing them in masses.
Now, similar threat loam over their delicate existence from the novel Coronavirus, and this time – as the experts argue – could be “an extreme threat to their very survival.”
Jaire Bolsonsro, who is in power since last year was urged in the open letter to take strict action (s) to prevent the spread of the disease, by preventing the illegal invaders, that is.
“We are on the eve of a genocide. Indigenous communities have never been so under attack … The government has no respect at all for the indigenous territories,” Salgado, who spent decades documenting these untouched Amazon ethnic groups, told the Guardian.
Salgado compared the current issue with the 1944 Rwanda genocide. According to BBC, in just 100 days, 800,000 indigenous peoples were slaughtered. “What will happen in Brazil will also mean the death of the indigenous,” he said.
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Bolsonsro led government was allegedly accused of stimulating invasions in the indigenous reserves. Reports reveal, the government recently sacked top-ranking environment officials who made attempts to check the poaching.
The government reportedly holds the record of dismantling bodies that try to save the rampant damage done to the untouched lands.
“When you endorse or encourage an act that you know will eliminate a population or part of a population, this is the definition of genocide … [It will be] genocide because we know this is going to happen, we are facilitating … the entry of coronavirus … [and therefore] permission is being given for the death of these indigenous people.”
A teenage girl from Amazon tribe dead from Covid-19
This letter comes after threats of the virus spreading into these ethnic groups grew last month. A 15-year old girl from Yonamami died from the disease. Covid-19 currently took 276,815 lives globally, and 6750 in Brazil.
The teenage girl spent nearly a week in intensive care in Boa Vista. According to Brazil’s official news, the country has documented 25 cases of the virus among the 850k-strong indigenous population.
Signatories of the letter include David Hockney, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, actor Meryl Streep, author Mario Vargas Llosa, architect Norman Foster, and artist Ai Weiwei.
Sebastião Salgado believes the Brazilian president won’t take action in his prerogative, but international pressure can force the government.
“Just in the Brazilian Amazon we have 103 indigenous groups which have never been contacted – they represent humanity’s pre-history. We cannot allow all of this to disappear,” Salgado said.