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Brazil's indigenous chief Raoni hospitalized in weakened state

19 July 2020, MVT 15:19
Angoho (L) and her husband Hayo, leader and chief of the Pataxo Hahahae ethnic group, respectively, wear face masks at the Vila Vitoria favela on the outskirts of Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, on July 8, 2020 amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. - Angoho and her relatives have been displaced twice from their land. First due to a water crisis caused by the spread of eucalyptus afforestation and in 2019 because the rupture of a mud dam belonging to the mining company Vale sent tons of toxic waste into the Paraopeba River from which they depended on. Now, Angoho and little more than ten Pataxo Hahahae families are struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic in a place where they feel they don't belong -the city. (Photo by DOUGLAS MAGNO / AFP)
19 July 2020, MVT 15:19

Indigenous leader Raoni Metuktire, one of the Amazon rainforest's best-known defenders, was transferred between hospitals Saturday due to weakness and a "worsening" state of health, one of the medical facilities said.

Raoni, a chief of the Kayapo people in northern Brazil, was likely suffering from a digestive hemorrhage, said Santa Ines Hospital, in the small town of Colider in Mato Grosso state, where he was admitted Thursday.

Raoni was already showing "signs of improvement" including a rise in blood pressure after being administered first aid, according to Dois Pinheiros Hospital in the city of Sinop, where he was transferred.

The hospital said it would conduct exams beginning Sunday to detect whether Raoni might be suffering from a gastric ulcer, estimating that he would remain at the facility "at least three days."

The transfer was made by plane after Raoni, now in his 90s, appeared to be in a "worsening condition, with an increase in weakening and a deterioration of renal function," Santa Ines Hospital reported in a statement.

It said that since it "did not have an intensive care unit, he was transferred with some urgency" just in case "his clinical condition worsens."

Known for his colourful feather headdresses and the large disc inserted in his lower lip, Raoni has travelled the world raising awareness of the threat posed by destruction of the Amazon.

The president of French NGO Planete Amazon reported that Raoni had been in a depressed state following the loss of his wife of more than 60 years, Bekwyjka, who died in June following a stroke.

He "started to be sick 15 days ago with fever, diarrhea and vomiting" and was very dehydrated, said Gert-Peter Bruch, the association's leader.

Raoni tested negative for coronavirus, Bruch said, even as many indigenous people in the Amazon have contracted the illness as it sweeps across the country.

Brazil, the world's second hardest-hit country, is nearing 80,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

Another iconic indigenous leader in Brazil, chief Paulinho Paiakan, died in June after contracting the virus.

The same month, in an interview with AFP, Raoni said Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro "wants to take advantage of this disease" to eliminate indigenous people.

Bolsonaro has faced criticism for pushing to open protected Amazon lands to farming and mining, which he argues would benefit indigenous communities.

Indigenous leaders and activists are skeptical, however, and have condemned the president for some of his comments, including that indigenous people "are becoming more and more human, just like us."

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | AFP

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