Chief Raoni launches World Cup tour to fight for Amazon

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Brazilian chief Raoni attends a protest in front of the Planalto palace, the official office of the presidency in Brasilia on May 27, 2014
© AFP/File Evaristo Sa

Brasília (AFP) – Twenty-five years after he rose to fame touring with pop star Sting, Brazilian indigenous chief Raoni has launched a new tour coinciding with the World Cup to condemn the ongoing destruction of the Amazon.

A striking spokesman for the rainforest with his bright feathered headdress and large wooden lip plate, Kayapo leader Raoni Metuktire will visit France, Belgium, Britain, Monaco and Norway in an awareness-raising tour that opens Tuesday in Paris, nine days before the World Cup kicks off in Brazil.

“I hope that during the World Cup people will pay attention to indigenous peoples and the Amazon, will understand us and help us,” he told AFP ahead of his tour.

Raoni, who is more than 80 years old, is fighting for the protection and official demarcation of indigenous lands in the rainforest.

He has strongly opposed the scores of large hydroelectric dams being planned in the Amazon basin — including the massive Belo Monte dam currently under construction in Para state — and the encroachment of industrial agriculture.

“The white man raises chickens, cattle, but we indigenous people need the forest to hunt, we need the river to fish. Many young indigenous people are worried about this invasion, the white man’s occupation, deforestation, the contamination of the rivers,” he said, using his nephew Megaron Txucarramae as an interpreter.

Raoni will meet with government officials and youth during his tour, which was organized by environmental group Planet Amazon.

“The idea is to hold European and Brazilian leaders accountable during the World Cup. Going to Europe is important because they have always listened to Raoni there, and there are European companies involved in the Amazon,” said the organization’s president, Gert-Peter Bruch.

Brazil’s indigenous groups, who make up 0.3 percent of the country’s population of 200 million, accuse President Dilma Rousseff’s government of stalling the demarcation of their ancestral lands and making too many concessions to large-scale farming.

Last week about 500 indigenous chiefs from 100 ethnic groups held a rally in the capital, Brasilia. When police fired tear gas to disperse them, some shot arrows from their bows, hitting one policeman in the leg.


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