Novo Progresso, Brazil, Aug 20 (efe-epa).- About a hundred indigenous people from the Amazon returned Thursday to block an important highway in Brazil, this time “indefinitely,” until the government responds to the deforestation, fires and the advance of the coronavirus pandemic that’s devastating their territories.
Just one day after allowing the flow of traffic on the federal highway BR-163, which crosses the country from north to south, members of the Kayapó ethnic group established a new blockade near the municipality of Novo Progresso, in the northern state of Pará.
The indigenous people burned a written notification sent by the National Indian Foundation (Funai), a state body that takes care of ancestral villages in the country, and demanded instead the presence of representatives of the government of President Jair Bolsonaro.
Wearing feather headdresses, armed with sticks and with half their faces painted black, the Kayapó set up road barriers with tires and wood to prevent the movement of vehicles in both directions.
“They will not reopen until the government comes to listen to them and fulfills its commitments with them. The situation is serious,” Luis Carlos Sampaio, who serves at the KABU Institute, a community association created and directed by the Kayapó.
The protest on BR-163, a crucial route in the transport of grain cargo produced in the central-western region of the country to the Amazonian river ports, began on Monday, and has caused kilometers of traffic jams.
That same afternoon, a federal judge in the region ordered the police to unblock the route and established a daily fine of 10,000 reais ($1,830) for the Kayapó if they did not comply with the law.
On Tuesday morning the traffic continued to be cut off, but shortly after, the Kayapó decided to unblock the road, albeit intermittently, a situation that remained more or less stable until Thursday.
“Right now they only allow ambulances to pass,” Sampaio said.
The Kayapó ask for greater support from authorities to contain the spread of COVID-19 among their communities and actions to stop deforestation, fires and illegal gold mining on their lands.
According to Sampaio, the Baú and Menkragnoti indigenous reserves, where the Kayapó live, are “highly threatened” by deforestation, the fires recorded in recent weeks, especially at night, and the advance of COVID-19.
“It is an effervescent environment,” he stressed.
According to the latest data from the Ministry of Health, 348 indigenous people have died in the villages of Brazil as a result of COVID-19, while more than 20,700 cases have been confirmed.
According to the KABU Institute, the pandemic has already infected 400 Kayapó indigenous people in the two Baú and Menkragnoti reserves.
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.
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.
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