Brazil’s indigenous citizens have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Indigenous people in Brazil often live in communities which are far from hospitals, in areas which often lack basic infrastructure. Those who move to towns or cities can end up in precarious living conditions with few public services, increasing their vulnerability to health issues.
According to the country’s Special Indigenous Health Service (SESAI), more than 8,000 Brazilian indigenous people have so far contracted the virus since the beginning of the pandemic. The service only counts people living in indigenous territories, urban centers.
The President of Mato Grosso Indigenous Federation told CNN that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s government has failed to adequately prepare for the pandemic.
“The doctors have to prescribe, not the president. The government did not take prevention seriously,” the President of Mato Grosso Indigenous Federation said.
Brazil is nearing 1.9 million cases of the novel coronavirus after its health ministry reported 24,831 new cases Sunday. It has the second highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world, behind only the US.
Bolsonaro, who tested positive for the virus last week, vetoed several points of a law aimed at protecting indigenous communities against Covid-19 last Wednesday, according to the government’s official journal. The proposed legislation establishes an emergency plan to combat the pandemic in indigenous territories and classifies indigenous people and other traditional communities as “groups in situations of extreme vulnerability.”
But the vetoes are not final. The law’s text, which has already been approved by the country’s Congress and Senate, must now be voted upon again. If a majority in both houses vote against the President’s vetoes, the law will be approved in its entirety. Otherwise, the law will move forward without the vetoed parts.
The president has repeatedly dismissed the threat of the disease, and has a historically antagonistic relationship with indigenous Brazilians.
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