When Benjamín Rodríguez Grandez, an Indigenous leader in the Putumayo region of the Amazon in northern Peru, became sick with apparent COVID-19 symptoms in July, he was evacuated to Iquitos, the nearest major city. Getting there was the only way to receive treatment in a hospital with an intensive care unit, and it highlighted the vulnerability of Indigenous Amazonian communities during the pandemic, cut off as most are from main highways and infrastructure by jungles, rivers, and state negligence. Rodríguez, a leader from the Huitoto tribe who dedicated his life to preserving Indigenous customs and the natural resources they depend on, died of COVID-19 on July 16. “Everyone mourns the loss of a leader who was so wise as Benjamin was,” said Jackson Coquinche, a friend. “Of all the people who have died in this region, they have mostly been elders, who are the most wise.” More than 1,000 Indigenous people in the Amazon region have likely died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Each loss is a devastating blow to these communities constantly fending off threats that endanger their very survival, such as illegal land grabs, deforestation, and climate change. Benjamín Rodríguez Grandez, front, was a leader in his community and in the campaign for Yaguas National Park. Image courtesy of Monica Paredes/FZS Peru. Even before COVID-19, defense of these rights was often deadly. Anyone standing up against interests of politicians and big business, as Rodríguez often did, risked becoming the victim of violence. In 2019 alone, 33 land…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer