Coronavirus kills leading Brazil indigenous chief, Aritana Yawalapiti


One of Brazil’s leading indigenous chiefs, Aritana Yawalapiti, died Wednesday of respiratory complications caused by COVID-19, his family said.


Aritana, 71, a chief of the Yawalapiti people in the Amazon, was known for fighting to protect the world’s biggest rainforest and the rights of the indigenous peoples who live there.

“He was a great advocate in the struggle to preserve and perpetuate his people’s culture for future generations and a tireless activist against the effects of deforestation,” his family said in a statement.

Aritana was diagnosed with the new coronavirus about two weeks ago, after having trouble breathing in his village in the Xingu indigenous reserve.

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He died in an intensive care unit at a hospital in the city of Goiania.

He had been raising funds to help indigenous communities deal with the pandemic when he got sick.

COVID-19 has hit especially hard among the region’s indigenous groups, who have a history of vulnerability to outside diseases.

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In Brazil, more than 22,000 indigenous people have been infected and 633 have died, according to the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples’ Association.

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