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Amazon's indigenous people 'never so threatened': pope

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Puerto Maldonado (Peru) (AFP)

Pope Francis sounded a stark warning about the future of the Amazon and its peoples during a visit to the region on Friday, saying they had "never been so threatened."

In a speech to thousands of tribe members on the edge of the rainforest in Peru, he said the Amazon and its peoples bore "deep wounds."

Francis lamented "the pressure being exerted by great business interests that want to lay hands on its petroleum, gas, lumber, gold and forms of agro-industrial monocultivation."

Bare-chested tribesmen, their bodies painted and their heads crowned with colourful feathers, danced and sung for the pope when he arrived in the Peruvian city of Puerto Maldonado.

Thousands of indigenous people had traveled to meet the pontiff from throughout the Amazon basin region of Peru, Brazil and Bolivia.

Members of one of the tribes presented the pope with a bow and arrow in a symbolic gesture aimed at urging him to defend land rights they say they have been stripped of.

"The native Amazonian peoples have probably never been so threatened on their own lands as they are at present," said the pope, who appeared visibly moved by the reception.

"Amazonia is being disputed on various fronts," he said.

"The problems strangle her peoples and provoke the migration of the young due to the lack of local alternatives.

"We have to break with the historical paradigm that views Amazonia as an inexhaustible source of supplies for other countries without concern for its inhabitants."

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