“In Brazil, the situation is catastrophic”

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La Croix: How do you assess the health situation in Brazil?

Archbishop Marc Stenger: Brazil is today in a catastrophic situation. This is the term that comes up most often when we chat with the Pax Christi delegates in Brazil. Jair Bolsonaro’s government in Brasilia does not defend the country and denies the reality of the problem. His speech is opposite to the reality of Brazil.

Who are the most vulnerable populations?

Mgr M. S.: If the urban populations are not spared, the Amazon communities are particularly affected by the Covid-19. They are even subjected, in a certain way, to a “double penalty”: they undergo the virus head-on, on the one hand, which leaves them defenseless, on the other hand, in the face of the large groups which are engaged in mining activity on their land. They are at their mercy.

This phenomenon is found in neighboring countries, including Peru, the second most affected country in South America. Extractivism aggravates the situation in Latin America, with what it implies of violence. There are leaders in the indigenous communities, but they are very weakened by the pandemic and cannot afford to defend themselves. In early May, the bishops of the Brazilian Amazon wrote a text to express their concern and ask ” greater attention from governments, national and regional ”, about the pandemic “Which is spreading ever more in the Amazon

What can Brazil do to respond to this crisis?

Mgr M. S.: First, as the Church in Brazil says very clearly, we must save men. The government in Brasilia must take all necessary measures to stop the spread of the virus.

Then, more broadly, we all have to be concerned about the Amazon. We care very much about ourselves in the current crisis. We are seeing the release in France. We’re starting to live again. But you have to see what’s going on elsewhere. We must read the apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia (Editor’s note: “dear Amazonia”) of Pope Francis. The Amazon is necessary for the future of the world. Not only because of the climate issue, but also because it is an expression of great cultural wealth. We also see there, all the consequences of a devastating society, carrying violence, injustices and very deep inequalities.

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