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Brazil tribal chief Raoni rejects Bolsonaro's criticism

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Brasília (AFP)

Brazilian tribal chief Raoni on Wednesday hit back at President Jair Bolsonaro's criticism of him at the United Nations, saying the far-right leader should leave "before something serious happens."

Bolsonaro delivered a defiant speech at the UN General Assembly Tuesday, defending his policies on indigenous people and accusing Raoni Metuktire of being a tool of foreign governments to advance their interests in the Amazon.

But the elderly Kayapo chief, internationally recognizable through his traditional lip plate and feather headdress, told reporters in Brasilia that Bolsonaro "is not a leader" and should leave office.

"Before something serious happens, he must leave, for the good of everyone," Raoni said, speaking through his granddaughter, who translated his comments into Portuguese.

Raoni's remarks come after Brazilian tribal leaders issued a statement condemning Bolsonaro's "racist and genocidal attack" at the UN and calling for the government to be sanctioned for threatening indigenous lives.

Bolsonaro's comments increased "violence, deaths, environmental crimes and fires, legitimizing the actions of invaders and historic enemies of indigenous people and their territories," the statement said.

During his 32-minute speech, Bolsonaro said media reports that the Amazon was being devastated were lies and accused NGOs of helping to treat "our Indians as though they were real cavemen."

Raoni is famous for his work campaigning in defense of Brazil's rainforest alongside personalities like pop star Sting. The 89-year-old has been tapped for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.

Another indigenous leader, Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, was one of the recipients Wednesday for Sweden's Right Livelihood Award, better known as the "Alternative Nobel," for his activism.

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