The Executive issued Legislative Decree No. 1489, through which it approved the strategy for the implementation and execution of services and actions for the protection and care of indigenous or native peoples in the framework of the health emergency declared by the coronavirus pandemic, now we ask ourselves: Is the implementation proposed by the government for the support of indigenous peoples in the face of COVID-19 adequate? The answer is yes, but we note that it has a number of deficiencies or loopholes that need to be corrected, as we will explain below.
Thus, we begin by pointing out that this legislative decree was issued almost sixty days after the beginning of the sanitary emergency, demonstrating the State’s belated concern for indigenous peoples, despite the fact that they are a highly vulnerable population. Now, according to this decree, the Ministry of Culture has ten additional days to implement the measures provided, but always in direct interaction with other sectors, evidencing, once again, the sadly classic and lethargic state bureaucracy, but this time to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, as if they were second-class citizens in the country.
Likewise, the legislative decree mentions general guidelines, but does not specify the actions to be taken or the concrete mechanisms to be used for implementation. In fact, there is a marked bias in the law, since it does not include peasant communities or Andean peoples, only Amazonian native communities and peoples in isolation and initial contact (PIACI). There is also another series of gaps in the law, since it does not include the peasant communities or the indigenous migrant population returning to their native villages, much less the indigenous people living in the city, there are no sanitary borders, the amount allocated is insufficient, considerations that should be taken into account by the government to expand the aid, since they are also part of the indigenous or native peoples of Peru.
Entering into the concrete analysis of the legislative decree, it specifies five lines of action:
1. – Territorial Control: providing that both the National Police of Peru and the Armed Forces will direct and coordinate the supervision and control of river and land traffic in the places where the indigenous or native peoples live, in addition to allowing the entry of people into the community, which could generate future social conflicts, since we must remember that the native peoples have historically opted for the method of self-isolation, This is to prevent the possible entry of any person from outside the communities who could be infected, and coordinated actions must be carried out with the participation of the communal authorities to avoid any type of conflict.
2. – Health Alert: the Ministry of Health will design measures aimed at preventing and responding to the spread of COVID-19 in geographical areas where indigenous peoples live, in direct coordination with indigenous leaders (Presidents of the Federations and Apus of the Communities), this involves the diagnosis of cases, monitoring and surveillance of the disease and preventive actions, among other actions to be followed so that the health measures really take effect within the communities.
3.- Supply of basic necessities: the Ministry of Culture will identify the localities of indigenous or native peoples in vulnerable situations for the delivery of basic necessities, following the framework of the Qali Warma program; but isn’t it obvious that all native peoples are vulnerable populations? Now, it is also worth asking ourselves: How are they going to demand that the donated food follow disinfection protocols when they do not have drinking water because they generally use river water, do not have soap, medicinal alcohol and much less bleach? What strategies are we analyzing, if the communities do not have electricity or basic services, do not have infrastructure or sanitation? Then, how will they be able to follow preventive measures in a frontal fight to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
4.- Information and early warning: Together , the Ministries of Culture and Health will lead the strategic actions of communication and dissemination of culturally relevant information on the prevention of the coronavirus and will establish, in a coordinated manner, monitoring and health alert mechanisms in the indigenous or native communities.
Protection of Indigenous Peoples in Isolation and Initial Contact: The Ministries of Culture and Health should strengthen monitoring in the territories where the PIACI are present, as well as the implementation of health security measures. Despite the good intentions, we still have some doubts about its effective execution, as it is contradictory with the health care mechanisms for the PIACI, which require the informed consent of the peoples in initial contact situation, obtained with cultural relevance, because the indigenous peoples, when they isolate themselves, do not want to have any contact with people outside the community to avoid any possibility of disease contagion; For this reason, I believe that there should be a dialogue table with information and communication in native languages so that the communities can understand the importance of the measures taken by the government for the wellbeing of the entire population.
The norm indicates that there must be the participation of the authorities of the indigenous or native peoples, having to have a previous coordination with the purpose that their opinions really serve to make viable the strategies of protection and attention of the indigenous peoples, with the obligation of an intercultural approach. Communication must be translated into native languages in order to achieve a real understanding of the messages within the indigenous population. Allocating a budget of five million soles for the execution of these measures, I think, will be insufficient to address all the health and other problems suffered by the indigenous communities.
Finally, better late than never, the late issuance of the norm really reflects the indifference of the State, by adopting public policies that exclude these populations. It is ironic that in the jungle of Peru, catalogued as the lungs of humanity, there is currently a lack of medicinal oxygen in all hospitals, with private companies having to make up for the State’s obligation. , This is the case of an oil company of Trompeteros, which not only has closed its operation, but a minimum staff has managed to recalibrate its equipment to produce medical oxygen in its industrial maintenance plant, which is supplying free of charge to hospitals in Iquitos (fifty balloons per day), after a river trip of sixteen hours. Similarly, there is another company that has donated thousands of masks for health professionals, all this to make up for the deficiencies or inadequacies of the measures taken by the government in these areas, carrying out corrective measures to help the indigenous populations that really need them and are highly vulnerable.