Indigenous leader calls for help in Brazil’s biggest reserve

Reports in Brazilian media have said missionaries, health care agents, loggers and miners carried the virus into those areas. (File/AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2020

Indigenous leader calls for help in Brazil’s biggest reserve

  • The two fatalities were in the Kayapo indigenous group, which has reported a total of 22 virus cases
  • The community’s leader said he wants President Jair Bolsonaro and other officials to stop loggers, miners and fishermen from illegally entering the territory, incursions

RIO DE JANEIRO: As the coronavirus spreads into indigenous lands in Brazil, killing at least 40 people so far by the government’s count, the first two COVID-19 deaths were registered this week in the Xingu area, one of the biggest reserves in the world.
The two fatalities were in the Kayapo indigenous group, which has reported a total of 22 virus cases. The community’s leader, Megaron, told The Associated Press he wants President Jair Bolsonaro and other officials to stop loggers, miners and fishermen from illegally entering the territory, incursions he believes have sped up the spread of the virus.
Bolsonaro has encouraged development in the Amazon, regardless of indigenous lands, although the state-run indigenous agency, FUNAI, issued an order in mid-March barring access to those lands because of the virus. Still, reports in Brazilian media have said missionaries, health care agents, loggers and miners carried the virus into those areas.
“It is not us that are leaving and taking (the virus). There are people seizing this disease to invade indigenous land,” Megaron said.
He received questions from AP on May 13, but his team wasn’t able to get his response back until Wednesday due to their remote location in Xingu, which covers more than 2,600,000 hectares (more than 10,000 square miles) in the middle of Brazil. It is home to more than 5,500 indigenous people of 14 ethnic groups.
Megaron, who is a nephew of acclaimed environmentalist Raoni Metuktire, said his community now lives in fear because of the coronavirus.
“It is the government’s obligation to take care of our land, our community, give us help, care, even more now because this disease is killing a lot of people. Our request is to be isolated in our village until the government or the health ministry say there is no more COVID-19,” he said.
A video obtained by AP contains footage dated Monday showing a dozen indigenous men blocking the entrance of a Kayapo village.
FUNAI has been slow in doing its job, members of its own staff in the Amazon told AP last week, speaking on condition of anonymity because of concerns about retribution. The agency replied that it has adopted “all the measures within its reach” for the pandemic, including the distribution of food and personal protection equipment.
While the government lists 40 coronavirus deaths of indigenous people inside the reserves, activists say about 150 in all have died in Brazil, including in cities. The toll is likely higher, because hospitals often don’t use patients’ indigenous names when admitting them.
Bolsonaro is a strong critic of environmentalist groups and nonprofit organizations that work with indigenous people. He also contends there has been an overreaction to the coronavirus and argues against lockdowns ordered by local officials, saying the economic disruptions from the crisis will kill more than the virus.
Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, a key ally of the country’s agribusiness lobby, contended at a Cabinet meeting on April 22 that Bolsonaro act while the focus is on the pandemic to push through deregulation of environmental policies.
Data from monitoring group Imazon showed deforestation in the Amazon hit a 10-year high in April, with almost 529 square kilometers (just over 200 square miles) of forest knocked down. Much of that harm, analysts say, comes from illegal loggers and miners.


France backs calls for EU sanctions on Turkey

Updated 19 September 2020

France backs calls for EU sanctions on Turkey

  • Cypriot officials insist the EU shouldn’t set a ‘double standard’ by imposing sanctions against Belarus for alleged voter fraud while avoiding doing so when Turkey carries on its exploration at the expense of EU members

JEDDAH: France on Friday backed Cyprus’ calls for the EU to consider imposing tougher sanctions on Turkey if the Turkish government won’t suspend its search for energy reserves in eastern Mediterranean waters where Cyprus and Greece claim exclusive economic rights.

French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune said sanctions should be among the options the 27-member bloc considers employing if Turkey continues to “endanger the security and sovereignty of a member state.”

“But we consider that the union should also be ready to use all the instruments at its disposal, among them one of sanctions, if the situation didn’t evolve positively,” Beaune said after talks with Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides in Nicosia.

A European Parliament resolution has called for sanctions against Turkey unless it showed “sincere cooperation and concrete progress” in defusing tensions with Greece and Cyprus.

Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Turkey and now analyst at Carnegie Europe, said the resolution reflected the views of a democratically elected parliament from across the bloc. “This is not ‘country X against country Y,’ it is the aggregated view of the European Parliament,” he told Arab News.

EU leaders are set to hold a summit in a few days to discuss how to respond to Turkey prospecting in areas of the sea that Greece and Cyprus insist are only theirs to explore.

Turkey triggered a naval stand-off with NATO ally Greece after dispatching a warship-escorted research vessel in a part of the eastern Mediterranean that Greece says is over its continental shelf. Greece deployed its own warship and naval patrols in response.

Greek and Turkish military officers are also holding talks at NATO headquarters to work out ways of ensuring that any standoff at sea doesn’t descend into open conflict.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Turkey’s withdrawal of its survey ship and warship escorts was a positive step, but that Greece needs to make sure Ankara is sincere.

He said a list of sanctions will be put before EU leaders at next week’s summit and whether they’ll be implemented will depend on Turkey’s actions. “I’m hoping that it won’t become necessary to reach that point,” Dendias said.

Cypriot officials insist the EU shouldn’t set a “double standard” by imposing sanctions against Belarus for alleged voter fraud and police brutality while avoiding doing so when Turkey carries on its exploration at the expense of EU members.

Meanwhile, the EU is set to announce sanctions on Monday against three companies from Turkey, Jordan and Kazakhstan which are accused of violating a UN arms embargo on Libya, diplomats told AFP.