BRASILIA, April 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As the new coronavirus reaches into Brazil’s indigenous communities for the first time, one village trying to protect itself in the Amazon rainforest has achieved a rare victory: getting illegal gold miners to agree to leave, indefinitely.
Kayapo leaders from Turedjam village negotiated with more than 30 prospectors, who all agreed to stop operations and remove their equipment over the course of last week, with no solid date on when – or if – they will return.
The move could help slow the country’s dizzying deforestation rate if other indigenous groups try to follow suit, environmentalists say. For the approximately 400 indigenous people living in Turedjam, in Brazil’s northern state of Para, the decision was a matter of life and death.
“We no longer want the prospectors to circulate through the villages. They agreed to leave,” Takatkyx Kayapo, one of the community leaders who negotiated with the miners, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Brazil has more than 11,000 reported novel coronavirus cases and more than 400 deaths. The first case among indigenous communities was confirmed on April 1. Health experts warn that the spreading virus could be lethal for Brazil’s estimated 900,000 indigenous people, who have been decimated for centuries by diseases brought by Europeans, from smallpox and malaria to the flu.