“So what?” President Jair Bolsonaro used this phrase replying to a journalist when questioned in the Alvorada Palace about the deaths of over 5,000 people from Covid-19 in April earlier this year. Today, Brazil reached 100,000 deaths and nearly three million people are infected with the new coronavirus. These are not just numbers, but people, stories of families marked by mourning and pain.
The Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum launches its response to Bolsonaro’s infamous statement on Tuesday August 11th. The film “So what?”, narrated by Dário Kopenawa Yanomami points the way for the protection of indigenous communities in the face of the advance of the pandemic: "So what is the only thing that can save us: miners out now!", concludes Dário, who is calling for the urgent removal of the thousands of illegal miners who are currently inside the indigenous territory.
More than 630 indigenous people have died in the Covid-19 pandemic, and almost 23,000 cases are confirmed and 148 peoples affected. Many of those who have passed away are elders and leaders of their peoples, taking with them their wisdom, traditional knowledge and their stories of struggle, inspiration and learning for new generations.
Indigenous leader and director of Hutukara Yanomami Association, Maurício Ye’kwana points out that the film is yet another attempt to put pressure on the authorities to remove the illegal miners from the territory. “This film shows our fight for survival. It’s to put pressure on the Brazilian State to fulfill its role and remove the invaders from our lands. Please sign the petition and help us so that the government removes the invaders.
The public’s mobilization in defense of the Yanomami has produced results. More than 360,000 people have already signed the petition calling for the invaders to be removed from the territory and this number is increasing every day.
The pressure has also had an effect in the legal sphere. On July 20th, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) accepted the request for precautionary measures sent by Hutukara Yanomami Association in conjunction with the National Human Rights Council (CNDH), recognizing that there is a serious risk of irreparable damage to the health, life and personal integrity of the indigenous peoples of the Yanomami Territory, and demanded that urgent measures be taken by the Brazilian State, such as the withdrawal of the miners.
In a Public Civil action brought by the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) and Hutukara Yanomami Association, the Federal Regional Court of the 1st Region (TRF1) granted an injunction for the Union, Ibama, Funai, ICMBIO, and the Federal Police to present a plan and carry out the removal of the goldminers from the Yanomami Territory as an effective measure to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 disease in the villages. The lawsuit is currently suspended, and awaiting the opinion of the appellate judge in order for it to go ahead and comply with the injunction.
On August 5th, in a plenary session, Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court confirmed the preliminary decision by Minister (Judge) Luís Roberto Barroso, determining that urgent measures should be taken to curb the advance of Covid-19 in the country's indigenous lands. The decision, in response to a lawsuit presented by the Coalition of Indigenous Organizations of Brazil (Apib), reinforces that it is the duty of the Brazilian State to undertake the removal of invaders from indigenous lands
Another important moment in the #MinersOutCovidOut campaign was the meeting, at the end of June, between Dário Yanomami and the Vice President of Brazil, General Hamilton Mourão, when the indigenous leader asked for the immediate removal of the miners from the territory and received the commitment from Mourão that measures would be taken to do so.
For Maurício Ye’kwana, “despite all this judicial recognition, there is still no concrete answer to prevent the situation from getting worse”. According to him, “there is community transmission of the virus in the Yanomami communities precisely in the areas most affected by illegal mining. We need more than ever to remove the miners”.