Indigenous leaders miffed about the risk of coronavirus from Brazilian military visit
BOA VISTA (BRAZIL) – Leaders of an isolated indigenous named Yanomami community in Brazil have raised a complaint that a military mission to protect them from the coronavirus brought in greater risk of infection to their people as they came in contact with outsiders, which included journalists.
Federal prosecutors said they were conducting an inquiry into the visit for ignoring what Yanomami communities wish to remain isolated from society, thereby breaching social distancing rules and distributing chloroquine to indigenous people.
Soldiers brought medical supplies by helicopter to their camps on the border with Venezuela on Tuesday and Wednesday, and assembled Yanomami families for testing coronavirus. Thea outreach effort was recorded by a contingent of journalists.
Parana Yanomami said, “We don’t want to be used as government propaganda. We don’t want outsiders coming here to take photos of our children. The visit took us by surprise.”
The Yanomami are the last major tribe to live in relative isolation on a vast reservation. Their population would make up to around the size of the US state of Indiana and have been subjected to invasion for decades by gold miners, who brought diseases fatal to their people.
Roberto Yanomami, head of a community at Surucucu, said the government organised the trip without any consultation with tribal leaders.
He said in a video message, his face painted black with dye from the fruit of the genipapo tree. “We are worried strangers came here and left the COVID-19. The Yanomami people were called into the garrison with no explanation.”
Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo, heading the mission on Wednesday, told reporters the pandemic was under control among the Yanomami as no cases have been found by the medics.
His comment was contradicted by the Yanomami health council CONDISI which said there have been more than 160 confirmed cases and five deaths among the tribe of about 27,000 people.
The council asked the public prosecutor to investigate the visit and also look into the delivery of chloroquine, the anti-malarial drug of controversial use in treating COVID-19 patients. The prosecutor’s office said the Yanomami were not protected by the military from their main risk of contagion – the estimated at more than 20,000 gold miners illegally on their land.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field.