As coronavirus kills indigenous people in the Amazon, Brazil’s government goes missing
Oxygen plummeting, cough worsening, Guilherme Samias rode four hours down dirt roads to the Brazilian river town of Tabatinga. Edney, 38, raced him to the only hospital, a hopelessly overrun institution equipped with just 10 ventilators to serve the city’s 66,000 residents. Guilherme always said positive thinking would seed positive outcomes, so Edney chanted those same words, watching his father wheeled away: “Positive thoughts, dad! Positive thoughts!”
But Edney, leader of 14,000 indigenous Kokama people in Brazil’s Alto Solimões region, felt little cause for optimism. What he felt was anger. For weeks, he’d written letters to officials warning that the fears expressed before the virus had reached South America — that it could decimate the Amazon’s vulnerable indigenous people — were coming true. Dozens of Kokama were dying in what had become Brazil’s worst indigenous outbreak. But rather than alleviate the suffering, the government seemed to be making things worse.