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article imageBrazil indigenous chief Raoni meets pope as Amazon threat rises

By Catherine MARCIANO (AFP)     May 27, 2019 in Environment

Pope Francis on Monday met Brazil's legendary indigenous chief Raoni who is on a European tour to highlight increasingly acute threats to the Amazon since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took power.

The elderly Kayapo chief, internationally recognisable through his traditional lip plate and feather headdress, is seeking to raise one million euros ($1.1 million) to better protect the Amazon's Xingu reserve -- home to many of Brazil's tribal peoples -- from loggers, farmers and fire.

The Amazon region will be the focal point of a world bishops' meeting  or synod  to take place ...
The Amazon region will be the focal point of a world bishops' meeting, or synod, to take place in October
Handout, VATICAN MEDIA/AFP

Raoni Metuktire, famous for his work campaigning in defence of Brazil's rainforest alongside personalities like pop star Sting, is accompanied by three indigenous leaders from the Xingu.

The Vatican did not release details of Monday's meeting, but the Amazon region will be the focal point of a world bishops' meeting, or synod, to take place in October.

Local tribal leaders and conservationists are increasingly concerned about rampant illegal gold mining and logging that have devastated ancestral lands.

Raoni's trip comes as the Amazon faces increasing threats from mining and farming lobbies who have found a champion in President Bolsonaro, a climate change sceptic.

- Alarm over forest destruction -

There are hundreds of demarcated territories in Brazil, established in the 1980s for the exclusive use of their indigenous inhabitants, where access for outsiders is strictly regulated.

But Bolsonaro's anti-environment rhetoric before and after winning last October's elections has alarmed indigenous communities and green groups.

Tribal leaders and conservationists are concerned about illegal gold mining and logging that have de...
Tribal leaders and conservationists are concerned about illegal gold mining and logging that have devastated ancestral lands
Handout, VATICAN MEDIA/AFP

Bolsonaro has said he wants to "integrate into society" Brazil's estimated 800,000 indigenous people who have long battled to protect their traditional way of life, away from towns and cities.

A number of recent reports have sounded the alarm over rampant destruction of the Amazon and threats to indigenous inhabitants.

An indigenous alliance warned last month that native peoples in the Amazon faced an "apocalypse".

They warned in particular of Bolsonaro's pledges to allow more farming and logging in the Amazon, and to ease safeguards and grant more licenses for Brazil's huge mining industry, and build more dams.

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