Size of Wales stands in solidarity with indigenous peoples during coronavirus pandemic

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“We have to take this pandemic very seriously, because more will come. These diseases come from the hand of man, who is destroying nature.”
Wrays Pérez, the ‘pamuk’ of the Wampís Nation Autonomous Territorial Government (GTANW)

Size of Wales have signed Amazon Watch’s public statement in solidarity with Amazon indigenous peoples facing the coronavirus pandemic. Our forest project partners, Forest Peoples Programme have also added their support, along with over 200 other indigenous and international organisations.

Size of Wales currently supports the Wampís indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon. They are one such indigenous community gravely concerned about the spread of coronavirus across their territory and their community.

Wrays Pérez, the ‘pamuk’ (the highest authority) of the Wampís Nation Autonomous Territorial Government (GTANW) has said: “This pandemic is dangerous, if there are cases here it will be very hard for us, so we must prevent it. We know that there are already 10 cases in Iquitos, so that means it can reach [nearby] San Lorenzo and then to Saramiriza.”

Indigenous communities across the Amazon are demanding that outsiders immediately stop entering their territories and that their right for self-protection to be upheld, including the closing of their territory borders. The statement signed by Size of Wales calls on governments and other actors to stop all extractive activities including mining, oil, and logging, large scale agriculture, and all religious missionaries. 

It also calls for urgent public health services that are culturally appropriate to be made available, including health information about the virus in indigenous languages. 

“I want to say to the President of the Republic (the President of Peru), we have always demanded a real presence of the State, but this hasn’t happened. The army has been abandoned. They do not even have canoes here to be able to patrol. That is sad, when knowing the State manages a budget, but allocates nothing for the borders. That is what we want to inform our President of the Republic, so that they can implement the health posts with equipment, with medical masks, with everything else so that health workers can be implemented and properly care for those who may be infected with coronavirus” explained Wrays.

“Nevertheless, we have drawn up our own contingency plan to prevent the coronavirus from reaching the communities. 

“Here, the health posts are not equipped. We do not have the same defences as those living in the city. We do not have the basic conditions in our own houses so that you can isolate yourself, with water, baths and everything else, we have to go out to fetch water for bathing. So that’s a very serious problem.”

In 2015, the GTANW was set up to support the Wampís’ will to self-govern and secure the land rights to their vast ancestral territory within the Amazon. The pandemic could have long-term implications for communities in some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, already under threat from deforestation and climate change. 

We stand in solidarity with the Wampís, the other indigenous groups whom we at Size of Wales support, as well as all indigenous peoples globally as they mobilise to protect their communities and their lands during this troubling time.

Main Image: Wrays Pérez by Dan Haworth-Salter

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