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Indigenous protest over COVID-19 resumes on Brazilian grain highway

FILE PHOTO: Kayapo indigenous people block Brazil's BR 163 national highway, as they protest against the government measures in the indigenous lands to avoid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Landau

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Indigenous protesters on Thursday blocked a key Brazilian grain highway in the Amazon state of Para, the federal highway police said, resuming a protest that halted trucks carrying corn earlier in the week.

The Kayapó tribe say the federal government has failed to protect them from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed four of their elders, and has not consulted them on a plan to build a railway next to their land.

The Kayapó returned to the BR-163 highway in the region of Novo Progresso at 7 a.m. local time on Thursday, police said.

The BR-163 highway links towns in the nation’s biggest farm state Mato Grosso to the port of Miritituba, an important export river gateway in Para state. With the soy season almost over, the main grain transported on the road at present is corn.

Edeon Vaz Ferreira, executive director of Pro-Logistics Movement, a group linked to the Mato Grosso Aprosoja farmers association, said corn is still being shipped, but the situation is becoming increasingly complex.

“Any stoppage complicates the flow, and the programming of barges and ships,” Ferreira said, without giving further details on how the port has been affected by the protests.

Earlier this week, the Brazilian Vegetable Oil Industries Association (Abiove) said a blocked BR-163 highway could affect around 50,000 tonnes of soy and corn exports a day on their way towards the port of Miritituba.

A court ruling this week ordered the protesters to leave the road, which the Kayapó complied with temporarily on Wednesday. But they show no sign of backing down permanently as they insist that government representatives meet them for talks.

Reporting by Nayara Figueiredo; Writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Richard Pullin