The Kayapó Mekrãgnotire people re-block a key highway in protest over the Brazilian government's Covid-19 response and land invasion.
The Kayapó Mekrãgnotire people re-block a key highway in protest over the Brazilian government’s Covid-19 response and land invasion. Kabu Institute

Indigenous Brazilian protesters defied a court order on Tuesday and blocked a key highway for the second time in 24 hours, after reopening it with federal police earlier in the day.

The Kayapó Mekrãgnotire people first blocked a major highway near the city of Novo Progresso in the northern state of Para on Monday, demanding health assistance, medical supplies and food to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

They also demanded the end of deforestation and illegal activities in their territories, according to a statement obtained by CNN from the Kabu Institute, an NGO created to manage indigenous villages and inspect the region’s forests.

Later that evening, a federal judge ordered the protesters to clear the roadblocks or face a daily fine of 10,000 reais ($1,800)

By Tuesday morning, the indigenous protesters reopened the highway, but warned if the government failed to engage in talks regarding their demands, they would block it again. 

Brazilian Representative Joenia Wapichana released an official letter to Brazil’s Vice President Hamilton Mourão on Tuesday, urging him to open up a dialogue with the Kayapó Mekrãgnotire people regarding their demands.

Why they chose the highway: Indigenous leaders argue that proximity to the road brought coronavirus to their villages, the Kabu Institute told CNN Monday.

The first coronavirus cases among the Kayapó Mekrãgnotire occurred as a result of their contact with urban populations and the presence of illegal miners in their reserves. 

At least 21,000 indigenous people in Brazil have been infected with Covid-19 and more than 600 have died, according to the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB).