Brazilian leaders must take immediate action to save the country’s indigenous people from the “genocide” of Covid-19, said the global coalition of artists, celebrities, scientists and intellectuals.
In an open letter to Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, figures including Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt, David Hockney and Paul McCartney warned that the pandemic meant indigenous peoples in the Amazon faced “extreme threats to their survival”.
“Five centuries ago, these ethnic groups were destroyed by a disease brought by European invaders … Now, with this new scourge spreading rapidly throughout Brazil … [they] it might disappear completely because they don’t have the means to fight Covid-19, “they wrote.
Organizer petition, Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado, said survivors including gold miners of wild cats and illegal loggers must be immediately driven out of indigenous land to stop them from importing diseases that have killed more than 240,000 people worldwide, including 6,750 in Brazil.
“We’re on the eve of genocide,” Salgado, who has spent nearly four decades documenting the Amazon and its inhabitants, told the Guardian.
Even before Covid-19, Brazilian indigenous people were locked in what were called activists historic struggle for survival.
Critics accuse Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist in power since January 2019, of stimulating the original reserve invasion and dismantle government institutions that should protect them.
“Indigenous peoples have never been attacked … The government has absolutely no respect for indigenous territories,” Salgado said, pointing to crippling budget cuts and recent dismissal from several prominent environmental officials who target illegal seekers and loggers.
But the letter said the pandemic had made the already bleak view under Bolsonaro even worse by crippling the remaining protective measures.