Land seizures and COVID-19: the twin threats to Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples

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The few government officials remaining on the front lines are extremely worried. An environmental agent responsible for a conservation site in Rondônia state, and who spoke to Amnesty International on condition of anonymity, told us they had received information that “invaders intend to take advantage of the situation (of the pandemic) to invade this week.” Another FUNAI official who covers an Indigenous territory in Rondônia state said that “organized crime will take advantage of the state’s fragility during the pandemic to attack and destroy the protected areas.”

COVID-19 – and the economic slow-down that may follow – means Brazil’s government needs to do more, not less, to protect Indigenous peoples and the Amazon. Brazil should ensure Indigenous peoples have equal access to health care and protective measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a matter of urgency, Brazil also needs to step up monitoring and patrols of Indigenous territories and environmentally protected areas in the Amazon region, while taking all measures to ensure the safety of government officers. In the months ahead, Brazil needs to strengthen Indigenous and environmental protection agencies, including financial and human resources. Authorities should ensure the current health crisis will not be an opportunity for grileiros to destroy the Amazon forest.

Richard Pearshouse is Amnesty International’s Head of Crisis and the Environment

Jurema Werneck is Executive Director of Amnesty International Brazil

NOTE: This op-ed was originally published by

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