Amazon indigenous people protest on major Brazilian highway

Sao Paulo, Aug 19 (efe-epa).- A group of indigenous people on Tuesday held a protest blockading highway BR-163, an important road that crosses Brazil from north to south, against a lack of medical assistance for COVID-19, environmental concerns and the president’s infrastructure plans for the Amazon.

Members of the Kayapó ethnic group sat on the asphalt in Novo Progresso municipality in the Amazonian state of Pará, located in the north of Brazil, waiting to be heard by regional authorities.

The protest started on Monday with roadblocks that affected trucks, many of which move the grains produced in the central-western regions of the country to the river ports of Miritituba and Santarém, causing kilometers of traffic jams.

That same afternoon, the federal judge of the region ordered the police to unblock the road and established a daily fine of 10,000 reais (1,830 dollars) for any Kayapó who do not comply with the law.

However, on Tuesday, around 100 people continued the roadblocks during the morning before allowing traffic through temporarily, although they remained on the road threatening to obstruct it again.

The Kapayó demand more support from the authorities to contain the spread of the new coronavirus among their communities and demand actions to stop deforestation, fires and the advance of illegal gold mining on their lands.

According to the latest reports from the Ministry of Health, 345 indigenous people have died in the villages of Brazil as a result of COVID-19, most of them in the Alto Solimoes region, located in the heart of the Amazon, while there are more than 20,200 confirmed cases.

However, the government’s data does not take into account the deaths and infections of indigenous people in urban areas, therefore figures could be higher.

The Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab) raises the number of deaths from COVID-19 to 575 in 125 different ancestral villages.

Likewise, the Kayapó also demanded the renewal of the Basic Environmental Plan, from where they receive help from the central government for surveillance programs on their lands and to pay for inspection operations, among other projects.

They also expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that they were not asked about the concession process for the construction of the railway known as Ferrograo, which passes 50 kilometers from one of their reserves.

President Jair Bolsonaro, captain of the Army reserve and leader of the Brazilian extreme right, is in favor of exploiting the natural resources of the largest tropical forest on the planet, and recently said, “that story about the Amazon being on fire is a lie.” EFE-EPA


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