Brazil: Leader of Amazonian Peoples dies of coronavirus

SAO PAULO – The coronavirus pandemic has hit 38 indigenous groups in Brazil, raising fears for populations that have a history of being decimated by outside diseases, the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples’ Association (APIB) said yesterday.

“The virus is reaching indigenous territories across Brazil with frightening speed,” the association said in a statement. An APIB survey found 446 cases of the new coronavirus and 92 deaths among the affected groups, mainly in the Brazilian Amazon.

The grim news came a day after the indigenous community of Parque das Tribos, outside the northern city of Manaus, held a funeral for its chief, Messias Kokama, who died of COVID-19.

Kokama, who was 53, was buried in a closed casket wrapped in plastic to avoid spreading the virus.

Chief Kokama, who died from respiratory problems a week after he was diagnosed as a COVID-19 case, founded the Parque das Tribus-Taruma Community six years ago.

This is the first Brazilian Indigenous neighborhood located inside Manaus city and is currently inhabited by 3,000 people from 35 different ethnic groups.

The pandemic is also creating an opening for illegal miners and loggers to encroach on indigenous lands, said rights group Survival International.

“Countless tribal lands are being invaded, with the backing of a government which wants to completely destroy the country’s first peoples and makes no attempt to hide it,” said the group.

It criticized far-right President Jair Bolsonaro for his push to open protected indigenous lands to farming and mining.–MercoPress

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