As COVID-19 reached remote indigenous lands in Brazil’s Amazon, the government agency responsible for protecting native people brushed off calls for action, focusing instead on waging ideological battles, according to agents from the institution itself and others.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s repeated promotion of developing the vast Amazon has for months prompted indigenous activists, celebrities and agents on the ground to sound the alarm. In the face of a spreading pandemic, they warn inaction is enough to wipe out many indigenous people.
The Associated Press spoke to four agents who work with indigenous peoples in the farthest reaches of Brazil’s Amazon, and they were unanimous in their conclusion: The national Indian foundation, known as FUNAI, is hardly doing anything to co-ordinate a response to a crisis that could decimate ethnic groups.
Community Interviews with Moose FM
There’s not enough protective equipment for agents who enter indigenous territories or meet with native people in cities. Necessities like kerosene and gasoline are in short supply. Food deliveries only began last week — a month after indigenous people were instructed to remain in their villages — and remain vastly insufficient.
Story continues below advertisement
Since the pandemic’s onset,