Longtime Indigenous leader Raoni hospitalized in Brazil

BRASILIA, Brazil — An Indigenous leader who has become a symbol of the fight for Indigenous rights and preservation of the Amazon rainforest has been hospitalized, his institute and a relative confirmed Saturday.

The nearly 90-year-old Chief Raoni Metuktire was taken Thursday to a private hospital from his home in the Xingu Indigenous reservation after suffering for several days with diarrhea and dehydration, said his nephew, Patxon Metuktire.

The nephew told The Associated Press that Raoni tested negative for the new coronavirus after arriving at the hospital in Colider, a city 370 kilometres (230 miles) from the reservation.

According to a medical report released by the hospital, the chief was admitted with symptoms including weakness, shortness of breath, lack of appetite and diarrhea.

The hospital said that Raoni was awake and eating without difficulties, but that his condition worsened Saturday, probably because of bleeding in his digestive tract.

Later in the day, Raoni was transferred to a bigger hospital in Sinop, another city also in Mato Grosso state in western Brazil.

His nephew said doctors recommended the chief be moved to the other hospital because it has an intensive care unit. However, the nephew said, Raoni was not placed in the ICU and the transfer was done only in case he should need intensive care.

Raoni has campaigned for decades for the protection of Indigenous territories in the Amazon and for the rainforest itself.

A 1978 documentary, “Raoni: The Fight for the Amazon,” helped make him famous, as did a 1989 tour with the musician Sting.

He has been an outspoken critic of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and visited European leaders last year to denounce Bolsonaro’s calls for developing indigenous lands in the rainforest.

Bolsonaro rejected a call by French President Emmanuel Macron to meet with Raoni.

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