Amazon indigenous leader dies of coronavirus in Peru

An indigenous leader who fought for the land rights of Amazonian communities in Peru died on Wednesday from COVID-19, his family said.

Santiago Manuin, 63, was transferred to a hospital in the capital Lima from the Amazon region where he lived after he developed symptoms of the respiratory illness.

“My papa just passed away, at seven o’clock in the evening. Our family is hurting very much,” his daughter Luz Angelica Manuin told RPP radio.

She expressed outrage at the situation faced by Peru’s indigenous groups, who have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Many people have died; the community are holding vigils and burying them. The government has forgotten about us,” she said.

Indigenous people across Latin America have been decimated by the new disease, due to weak immune systems and centuries of state neglect.

The Pan American Health Organization estimates that at least 20,000 people are infected in the Amazon River basin, where some areas are only accessible by boat.

“We lament the death of the leader of the Awajun and Wampis people, who dedicated his life to the protection of the Amazon and to defending the rights of the forest’s native communities,” Peru’s culture ministry said on Twitter.

“His case should not be repeated. The state must make every effort to help Amazonian indigenous peoples affected by COVID-19,” it added.

Peru has reported more than 9,600 coronavirus deaths and over 285,000 confirmed cases. It is the sixth-worst hit country in the world and the second in Latin America after Brazil.