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Brazil tribal chief's body to be exhumed for autopsy: official

The Waiapi's territory has faced growing pressure from miners, ranchers and loggers under Bolsonaro
The Waiapi's territory has faced growing pressure from miners, ranchers and loggers under Bolsonaro AFP/File
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Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

The body of a tribal chief allegedly murdered deep inside the Amazon in northern Brazil will be exhumed for an autopsy, officials said Wednesday, following international outcry over his death.

Members of the Waiapi tribe gave the attorney general's office in Amapa state permission to examine the remains of Emyra Waiapi, whose body was found in a river on July 23 a day after his death.

Police were deployed to the remote region controlled by the Waiapi on Saturday to investigate the death and claims that heavily armed miners had overrun a village in the same area.

The decision to exhume the body was announced after attorney general Rodolfo Lopes met with members of the Waiapi in the capital Macapa on Wednesday.

The body will be flown by helicopter to Macapa for an autopsy on Friday.

Lopes had told reporters on Monday that it was too early to say if Emyra's death was a homicide.

A preliminary search of the village reportedly overrun by miners also had found no trace of the invaders, Lopes said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned "the tragic and reprehensible" murder and linked the indigenous leader's death to the pro-mining policies of President Jair Bolsonaro.

Rich in gold, manganese, iron and copper, the Waiapi's territory has faced growing pressure from miners, ranchers and loggers under far-right Bolsonaro, who came to power in January promising to open up the Amazon to development.

On Saturday, as news of the tribal chief's death emerged, Bolsonaro called for the "first world" to help exploit the "absurd quantity of minerals" in the rainforest.

The Waiapi's territory is one of hundreds Brazil's government has demarcated since the 1980s for the exclusive use of its 800,000 indigenous inhabitants. Access by outsiders is strictly regulated.

Bolsonaro has been accused of harming the Amazon and indigenous tribes in order to benefit his supporters in the logging, mining and farming industries.

On Monday, he said small-scale mining, or garimpo, should be legalized and indigenous people allowed to mine their own land, instead of being "jailed like a zoo animal."

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