Brazil's indigenous chief Raoni leaves hospital

Brasília (AFP) –


Brazil's best-known indigenous leader, chief Raoni Metuktire, was released from hospital Saturday after a health scare and gave thanks for all the support he received during his convalescence.

"I want to thank everyone who supported me, who heard about me every day, about my health. I thank you, now I am healed," said Raoni, an iconic defender of the Amazon rainforest, in a brief statement as he left the hospital.

In a wheelchair and visibly emaciated, the 90-year-old chief appeared at a press conference at Dois Pinheiros hospital in Sinop, Mato Grosso state, where he spent one week being treated for gastric ulcers, an inflamed colon and an intestinal infection.

His statement was translated by his grandson Paxton Metuktire.

"He is still a little weak because he is finishing recovering, but he is strong enough to continue leading his people," said Dr. Douglas Yanai, part of the team of eight specialists who treated him.

Raoni was to return by plane around 1:00 pm local time (1600 GMT) to his home of Metuktire, in the Xingu indigenous territory, the hospital reported.

Doctors said the "deep sadness" he felt on the death of his wife Bekwyjka, his companion for 60 years, on June 23 contributed to his condition.

Known for his colorful feather headdresses and the large disc inserted in his lower lip, Raoni, a chief of the Kayapo people, has traveled the world raising awareness of the threat posed by destruction of the Amazon.

In his brief statement, Raoni called for people to respect one another, because ill health can come "any day."

"Let's love, let's respect each other, because we don't know if tomorrow our friends are going to get sick. We have to be together," he said.