Paulinho Paiakan, one of the best known indigenous defenders of the Amazon rainforest, has died of coronavirus. Paiakan, who was around 65, was a chief of the Kayapo people.
He came to international attention in the 1980s in the fight against Brazil’s Belo Monte hydroelectric project – the world’s third largest dam.
In 1998, Paiakan was convicted of the rape of an 18-year-old. His wife was found guilty of assisting him in the attack.
His allies argue that the case was fabricated to tarnish his reputation and silence him.
Paiakan died on Wednesday in a hospital in northern Pará state. The area has been hit heavily by the pandemic, especially affecting indigenous communities.
“He worked all his life to build worldwide alliances around indigenous peoples to save the Amazon,” Gert-Peter Bruch, founder of environmental group Planet Amazon, told the AFP news agency.
“He was far ahead of his time. We’ve lost an extremely valuable guide.”