October 28, 2020

Indigenous people of the Amazon basin ask for resources before COVID-19 and the cessation of mining



Representatives of several countries that make up the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) denounced this Friday the “neglect” by governments and international organizations before COVID-19 and called for the cessation of illegal mining in their territories.

Leaders of Peru, Venezuela and Ecuador, who are members of COICA, expressed in a virtual appearance their concern about the lack of food, supplies and information to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the original communities.

ASK FOR ACTIONS AGAINST COVID-19

“It is not only about an indigenous person getting the virus, but a minority people can disappear from the Amazon. That is why we ask governments to safeguard the communities’ system of life,” said the COICA vice-coordinator, Tuntiak Katan.

The coordinator is made up of national indigenous organizations of the Amazon basin in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

A leader of Ecuador’s Shuar nationality, Katan complained that during the current health emergency, “the governments have turned their backs on us” and recalled the importance that indigenous peoples have had to sustain national economies.

Along these lines, he condemned that “historically governments have usurped the natural wealth of our territories, violating our rights.”

Faced with the alleged inaction of the Ecuadorian authorities, he said, the towns have closed access to their communities, but they fear that personnel from the extractive companies will take the virus to their territories and infect the Amazon’s grandparents, the most vulnerable.

DEMAND CESSATION OF MINING

“Illegal mining and extractivism have intensified taking advantage of the emergency that the countries are experiencing. We have complaints from Peru and Colombia where illegal miners threaten communities,” warned the COICA vice-coordinator.

In a recent resolution, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asked the governments of the region to refrain from carrying out practices that violate the specificity of indigenous peoples, specifically, extractive activities.

The representatives of the Amazonian peoples regretted that despite having held meetings with government authorities, no financial or logistical aid has yet been made, as well as the arrival of tests to detect possible contagions, which hinders statistical knowledge about the pandemic in their territories.

For his part, Gregorio Mirabal, from the Wakuenai Kurripaco people, from Venezuela, warned of the neglect of public programs towards the communities.

“We call them again, and for the last time, to seriously address this humanitarian and health emergency, otherwise we will hold them responsible for the deaths that are coming,” he said.

This leader censured that humanitarian aid is distributed “according to favoritism and political and electoral conveniences,” and considered that indigenous peoples “are now paying the price for resisting the violation of our rights and the rights of the Earth.”

COICA CREATES AMAZON EMERGENCY FUND

The transnational organization announced the creation of a “Common Amazon Emergency Fund” so that governments, entities and citizens from all over the world collaborate in order to supply the lack of compliance with the obligations of national states in the face of the expansion of COVID- 19.

“We see the urgent need to protect all humanity against the sunami from pandemics that are coming if we do not protect the forests, do not see us as victims, know that we are key allies to heal our common home and ensure planetary balance,” concluded Tabea Casique Coronado, from the Asheninka people of Peru.

To date, the governments of the Amazon basin have not provided precise data on how the virus affects communities such as indigenous communities, but according to COICA leaders, there are seven deaths in Brazil, two in Ecuador and one in Colombia due to the COVID-19.

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