In the last week of August, Brazil was close to the landmark of 120 thousand deaths from the coronavirus. The most impoverished and vulnerable populations, in addition to original peoples, have increasingly felt the impacts of this health and political crisis. In their most recent survey (27/08), the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil: APIB) recorded the deaths of 737 indigenous peoples, as well as infections in 28,093 warriors, from 156 peoples.
In the state of Minas Gerais, specifically in the region of Teófilo Otoni, the indigenous people’s concern with their survival is no different. Like their relatives in other regions, the Maxacali have suffered the multiple effects of the pandemic, associated with diverse and growing rights violations against these peoples.
For years this particular ethnicity has been the target of criminal and racist activities. At the beginning of August, a gang was broken up, formed of traders and politicians from the region, accused of embezzling money for indigenous people’s social benefits. For approximately eight years, the Maxacali have had their cards retained by local traders or been obliged to buy products at exorbitant prices – and if they refused, they were threatened with physical harm.
Given these complex violations, the Diocesan Caritas of Teófilo Otoni conducted an activity in an attempt to reduce the effects of the pandemic on the lives of these peoples. In the months of April and June, with CESE’s support, the organization donated 341 staple food baskets, benefitting more than 1,300 Maxacalis who live in the Vale do Mucuri region.
For Deliene Fracete Gutierrez, President of Caritas in Teófilo Otoni, the initiative, which received support from the Indigenous Pastoral, was fundamental at this time of social isolation and cuts to benefits. She notes that the Maxacalis people has the most numerous indigenous population in the region and is also the one that most needs help: “indigenous families are very deprived and in need.”
The activity undertaken by the Diocesan Caritas of Teófilo Otoni is part of the It’s Time to Care Campaign organized by the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (Conferência Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil: CNBB) and Caritas Brazil. Find out more below (in Portuguese): http://caritas.org.br/noticias/cnbb-e-caritas-brasileira-lancam-acao-solidaria-emergencial-da-igreja-no-brasil?fbclid=IwAR1sMKYEJ15c2QVnRA7TPVZvaIMTzgOZwL1sBFl_5qYT-eEeJtPGaa1QIDQ
The initiative aims to encourage solidarity through concrete gestures, by collecting food, hygiene and cleaning products. As well as taking materials to help people, the campaign also seeks to promote care in the religious, human and emotional sense.
(With information from Caritas in Teófilo Otoni)