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News > Bolivia

COVID-19 Death Threat to Bolivian Amazon's Indigenous Peoples

  • Members of an indigenous Amazonian people, May, 19, 2020.

    Members of an indigenous Amazonian people, May, 19, 2020. | Photo: Twitter/ @EfectoCocuyo

Published 4 June 2020

The Bolivian state recognizes at least 36 Indigenous nations that are sparsely populated.

Bolivia’s Center for Legal Studies and Social Research (CEJIS) denounced that the COVID-19 pandemic can devastate the Bolivian Amazon's Indigenous peoples close to the Santa Cruz and Beni regions.


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"We are very short of witnessing a catastrophe," the CEJIS director Miguel Vargas said to warn of a possible "ethnocide" in more vulnerable Indigenous populations.

He explained that 46 out of 58 indigenous territories are close to municipalities in which the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase exponentially.

This happens, for example, in Lomerio and Urubicha in the Department of Santa Cruz, where the Yuqui and Guarani indigenous peoples are settled.

As of Tuesday, in the Lomerio region, six COVID-19 deaths, 17 infected oil workers, and four infected Yuqui indigenous persons were reported.

Vargas explained that there is no precise information on the impact of the pandemic on indigenous Amazonian peoples because the Health Ministry did not include the variable of ethnic self-identification in the epidemiological records used to report on COVID-19 cases.​​​​​​​

"The situation is complex and dramatic because the Government could not respond to the needs of the indigenous territorial organizations," the CEJIS director remarked and recalled that the Yuqui nation has a population that does not exceed 370 people.

The risk of genocide increases every time an indigenous person has to leave their territory to seek medical attention or to receive cash transfers, which the coup-born regime led by Jeanine Añez promised to send.

"There is no health system in the indigenous territories," Vargas said and recalled that there is no possibility of accessing tests to detect the coronavirus.

The Interim government "has not taken into account" the recommendations on the vulnerability of indigenous peoples made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in April, he added.

The Bolivian state recognizes the existence of at least 36 indigenous nations that are sparsely populated and scattered in subtropical and Amazon regions of the country.​​​​​​​

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