Things That Matter

Brazil’s Remote Indigenous Communities Are At Risk Of Covid-19 After Healthcare Workers Test Positive

The Coronavirus pandemic has been ravaging Brazilian cities for months. In fact, Brazil is number two in the world when it comes to both deaths and infections. Cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have struggled to carry on as much of the economy and the health care system has collapsed. Many have attributed these dire conditions as consequences of President Bolsonaro’s failed policies.

Now, Brazil’s remote Indigenous communities are facing a similar crisis – although one that could be even worse thanks to a severe lack of access to medical care. A team of medical workers sent to protect the country’s native populations has actually done the opposite – as more than a thousands workers test positive for the virus and have spread it among remote tribes.

For months, as the Coronavirus tore through Brazil, Indigenous tribes across the vast country have tried to protect themselves by strictly limiting access to their villages. Some have setup armed roadblocks and others have hunkered down in isolated camps.

But it appears that all of that may have been in vain. According to interviews and federal data obtained by The New York Times, the health workers charged by the federal government with protecting the country’s Indigenous populations may be responsible for spreading the disease in several Indigenous communities. More than 1,000 workers with the federal Indigenous health service, known as Sesai, have tested positive for Coronavirus as of early July.

As news of the infections spread across the villages, communities became alarmed. “Many people grabbed some clothes, a hammock and ran into the forest to hide,” said Thoda Kanamari, a leader of the union of Indigenous peoples in the vast territory, home to groups with little contact with the outside world. “But it was too late, everyone was already infected.”

Health workers say they have been plagued by insufficient testing and protective gear. Working without protective equipment or access to enough tests, these workers may have inadvertently endangered the very communities they were trying to help.

Now, news of the region’s first deaths linked to the virus have started to emerge and there’s fear it will get much worse.

Credit: Tarso Sarraf / Getty Images

The remote villages that dot the Amazon region have also started to report their very first deaths linked to Coronavirus. Despite raging out of control in Brazil’s cities, remote Indigenous villages have faired quite well. That’s all beginning to change.

The Amazon region, which Brazil’s government says is home to greatest concentration of isolated Indigenous groups in the world, is now seeing an outbreak of Covid-19 – one that many fear will be hard to stop. Experts fear the new coronavirus could spread rapidly among people with less resistance even to already common diseases and limited access to health care, potentially wiping out some smaller groups.

So far, more than 15,500 Indigenous Brazilians have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus, including at least 10,889 living in protected territories, according to Instituto Socioambiental, an Indigenous rights organization. At least 523 have died.

The alarming news comes as Brazil continues to struggle in its response to the pandemic.

Credit: Michael Dantas / Getty Images

With nearly 2.1 million confirmed cases and more than 80,000 deaths, as of July 22, Brazil’s Covid-19 catastrophe is the world’s second worst, after the United States.

And now an illness that has ravaged major cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo is at risk of spreading unchecked in some of the county’s most vulnerable communities. Health care workers, Indigenous leaders and experts blame major shortcomings that have turned Brazil into a global epicenter of the pandemic.

Robson Santos da Silva, the Army colonel at the head of Sesai, defended the agency’s response during the pandemic, and brushed off criticism as “a lot of disinformation, a lot of politics.”

Complicating the outbreak in Brazil’s remote villages (and even in the large cities) is that tests have been in short supply and often unreliable, which means some doctors and nurses with asymptomatic or undiagnosed cases have traveled to vulnerable communities and worked in them for days.

Criticism of President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic, within Indigenous territories and beyond, is mounting.

Brazil has largely struggled to contain the pandemic thanks to the policies of its populist right-wing president who has denounced the pandemic as nothing more than a “little flu.” Within a couple of months of the initial outbreak, Bolsonaro lost two health ministers – who were physicians – and replaced them with an Army general who has no experience in health care.

And the backlash to Bolsonaro’s failed policies seems to be growing. Early this month, a judge on Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered the government to redouble efforts to shield Indigenous people from the virus by coming up with a comprehensive plan within 30 days and setting up a “situation room” staffed by officials and Indigenous representatives.

More recently, another Supreme Court judge generated consternation in the Bolsonaro administration by warning that the armed forces could be held responsible for a “genocide” over their handling of the pandemic in Indigenous communities.

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Imagine Having Machu Picchu All To Yourself – That’s What One Man Got After Being Stuck In Peru For Seven Months

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Imagine Having Machu Picchu All To Yourself – That’s What One Man Got After Being Stuck In Peru For Seven Months

Gustavo Basso / Getty Images

One of the most dreaded side effects of the global Coronavirus pandemic, is that it took with it our travel plans. Whether we were simply set to have weekends at the beach, visit our abuelos in Mexico, or go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the world, so many of us have seen our travel plans taken away.

Well, one traveler made it across the world to fulfill his lifelong dream of seeing Machu Picchu but as soon as he arrived, so too did the pandemic. He became stuck in foreign country and couldn’t travel or see the sights he had hoped to visit.

As Peru has slowly reopened, this now world-famous traveler is being known as the first person to see Machu Picchu post-lockdown and he got to do so all by himself.

One lucky traveler got to experience the city of Machu Picchu all by himself.

Peru’s famous Machu Picchu ruins, closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, reopened on Monday for one lucky Japanese tourist after he spent months stranded in the country due to global travel restrictions.

In a video first reported by The Guardian, Jesse Takayama shared his immense gratitude for being allowed to visit the ancient Incan city – which had long been one of his dreams. Months ago he had arrived in a small town near the Incan city, where he has remained ever since because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Peru’s Minister of Culture, Alejandro Neyra, said at a press conference that “He [Takayama] had come to Peru with the dream of being able to enter. The Japanese citizen has entered together with our head of the park so that he can do this before returning to his country.” Talk about a once in a lifetime experience.

Neyra went on to add that this really was a rare moment and that Takayama only received access after submitting a special request to the local tourism authority.

In an Instagram post about his special access, Takayama said that “Machu Picchu is so incredible! I thought I couldn’t go but many people asked the government. I’m the first one to visit Machu Picchu after lockdown!”

Takayama had been stuck in Peru since March when the country shut down its borders because of the pandemic.

Takayama arrived to Peru in March and promptly bought his pass to the ancient city but little did he know the world (and his plans) would come to a screeching halt. Peru was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic (and continues to struggle) and was forced to close its borders and institute a strict lockdown.

Peru was forced to implement drastic COVID-19 restrictions on travel including an end to all incoming international flights earlier this year, which only relaxed this month after the nation’s rate of new COVID-19 cases began declining in August.

The last statement posted on the Machu Picchu website, dated from July, says that “the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Trade and Tourism are coordinating the prompt reopening of Machu Picchu”.

Peru’s Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions.

The country’s Minister of Culture, Neyra, stressed that “the reopening of Machu Picchu is important for Peruvians, as a symbol of national pride and also as a budget issue, because it is one of the places that generates the most income for the culture sector.”

The BBC reports that the Inca stronghold, a Unesco world heritage site since 1983, is expected to reopen at reduced capacity next month. 

More than 1.5 million people make the pilgrimage to the Inca city annually. In 2017, Unesco threatened to place the famous ruins on its list of endangered heritage sites because of fears about overcrowding; Peruvian authorities subsequently brought in measures to control the flow of tourists and visitor numbers were capped at around 2,240 per day.

Peru is still experiencing one of the region’s worst outbreaks of Coronavirus.

After beginning a phased reopening, Peru has started to see its contagion rate increase in recent days. The country still faces one of the worst outbreaks in South America, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

“We are still in the middle of a pandemic,” Neyra added. “It will be done with all the necessary care.”

Peru has recorded just over 849,000 total cases of COVID-19, and 33,305 deaths since the pandemic began.

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This Is What Mexico’s AMLO Wants From The Pope For The Churches Crimes Against Indigenous Mexicans

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This Is What Mexico’s AMLO Wants From The Pope For The Churches Crimes Against Indigenous Mexicans

Massimo Valicchia / Getty Images

As Mexico prepares to mark the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (or AMLO) is demanding a formal apology from the Catholic Church for its role in the violent colonization of his country.

It’s no secret that the Catholic Church played a major part in the deaths of millions of Indigenous peoples across the Americas, as the church supported Spain’s conquest of the region. The church built missions throughout the country and often forcibly converted Indigenous people to Christianity.

Now, Mexico’s AMLO wants the church to right its wrongs with a formal apology and the return of several Mexican artifacts that are currently in the hands of the church.

Mexico’s President AMLO has asked Pope Francis for a formal apology for the atrocities committed by the church.

Mexico’s president has published an open letter to Pope Francis calling on the Roman Catholic Church to apologize for abuses of Indigenous peoples during the conquest of Mexico in the 1500s.

“The Catholic Church, the Spanish monarchy and the Mexican government should make a public apology for the offensive atrocities that Indigenous people suffered,” the letter states.

The letter was delivered to the pope by AMLO’s wife, Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, who met with him at the Vatican following a meeting she had on Friday with Italian president, Sergio Mattarella.

In addition to an apology, AMLO asked the Pope to make a statement in favor of Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico’s 19th-century independence leader who was once believed to have been excommunicated by the church for his involvement in the uprising. However, researchers later said it appeared that Hidalgo had confessed his sins before he was executed and thus was not excommunicated.

AMLO said: “I think it would be an act of humility and at the same time greatness” for the church to reconcile posthumously with Hidalgo.

The letter comes as Mexico struggles with how to mark the 500th anniversary of the 1519-1521 conquest, which resulted in the death of a large part of the country’s pre-Hispanic population. In fact, the letter came the same day that authorities in Mexico City removed a statue dedicated to Christopher Columbus that protesters had threatened to knock down.

So what exactly is in the letter and what does AMLO want from the Vatican?

Besides the formal apology, President AMLO also asked that the Vatican return to MExico three codices, including the Codex Borgia – an especially colourful screen-fold book spread across dozens of pages that depicts gods and rituals from ancient central Mexico.

It is one of the best-preserved examples of pre-conquest Aztec-style writing that exists, after Catholic authorities in colonial-era Mexico dismissed such codices as the work of the devil and ordered hundreds or even thousands of them burned in the decades following the 1521 conquest.

The president is also hoping the Vatican will return ancient maps of the city of Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City) that were taken amid the conquest of the city. AMLO hopes to exhibit the three codices and ancient maps for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Spaniards.

This isn’t the first time that AMLO has demanded apologies from foreign governments.

In 2019, López Obrador asked Spain for an apology for the conquest, in which millions of Indigenous people died from violence and disease. However, the Spanish government completely rejected the request saying at the time that Spain “will not issue these apologies that have been requested.”

The Catholic church played a key role as Spain colonized the Americas and spread its empire, setting up missions to convert Indigenous people to Christianity, often through violence and coercion.

Although the Vatican hasn’t yet apologized to Mexico for its part in the conquest, the Pope has done so in the past. In fact, in 2015, Pope Francis apologized to Bolivia over the church’s role in oppression in Latin America during the Spanish colonial era.

So far, the Vatican hasn’t yet responded to AMLO’s request, however, it’s museums and archives have often lent out various manuscripts and works of art after similar requests from other countries.

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