Having suffered from burning forests, poisoned rivers and invasion of their reserved lands, Brazil’s indigenous population now risks decimation from Covid-19 unless urgent measures are taken to protect them.
The Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, who has worked among Amazon tribes for the past decade, and Lélia Wanick Salgado, who designs his books and exhibitions, are appealing to Brazil’s governmental, congressional and judicial authorities to act quickly to avert contagion of these remote communities by infected outsiders.
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The indigenous peoples of Brazil face an extreme threat to their very survival because of the coronavirus pandemic. Five centuries ago, these ethnic groups were decimated by diseases brought by European colonizers. Since then, successive epidemiological crises have killed the majority of their populations. Now, with this new scourge spreading rapidly across Brazil, indigenous peoples, such as those who live isolated in the Amazon Basin, could be wiped out altogether since they have no defense against Covid-19.
Their situation is doubly critical because the territories reserved by law for the exclusive use of indigenous tribes are now being invaded by miners, loggers and cattle ranchers. These illicit activities have accelerated in recent weeks because the Brazilian authorities charged with protecting these lands have been immobilized by the pandemic. As a result, with nothing to shield the indigenous peoples from this highly contagious virus, they now face the real risk of genocide caused by infections brought by illegal intruders on their lands.
Such is the urgency and seriousness of the crisis that, as friends of Brazil and admirers of its spirit, culture, beauty, democracy and biodiversity, we appeal to the President of Brazil, His Excellency Mr. Jair Bolsonaro, leaders of Congress and the Judiciary to take immediate measures to protect the country’s indigenous populations against this devastating virus.
These indigenous peoples are part of the extraordinary history of our species.
Their disappearance would be an utmost tragedy for Brazil and an immense loss for humanity. There is no time to lose.
Lélia Wanick Salgado