Authorities in Brazil are allegedly targeting indigenous leaders after police initially launched a probe on two prominent critics of President Jair Bolsonaro's government, according to human rights activists in the country.

The Guardian reported that Sônia Guajajara, the head of Brazil's largest indigenous organization, the Association of Indigenous Peoples (APIB), and Almir Suruí, had been put under investigation last month.

The indigenous leaders had launched a social media campaign, raising awareness of the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic to Brazil's indigenous communities.

But the cases against the two indigenous leaders were dropped after federal judges ruled that there were no grounds for investigations. The judges dubbed the situation as an "illegal embarrassment."

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Indigenous Leaders in Brazil

Guajajara, 47, earlier said that the federal police had summoned her for an investigation in connection with the "Maraca series." 

The Maraca series, available on the APIB website, is part of a pro-indigenous people campaign supported by around 200 celebrities, according to France 24.

Guajajara became known to be a defender of native rights. She's from Arariboia indigenous land in northeastern Maranhao.

APIB has accused the government of Jair Bolsonaro of genocide of native people during the pandemic. The group has claimed that more than 1,000 native people had died due to the pandemic.

Natalie Unterstell, the founder of the think tank Política por Inteiro, said that the investigation launched against the two indigenous leaders exposed how the government is fostering violence against indigenous people.

Unterstell noted that these are not isolated circumstances, adding that the police have called others due to the same incident.

Unterstell said the levels of civic freedom in Brazil are going down, Common Dreams reported. Other groups such as Global Witness and Amazon Watch have expressed support for Guajajara.

COVID-19 Cases in Indigenous Population

Raphaela Lopes, a lawyer with Justiça Global, said they have been seeing the end of indigenous peoples as indigenous communities dying - without any successors, NBC News reported.

Indigenous communities have been widely affected by the coronavirus. Experts earlier warned that it would be disastrous. According to the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, around 50,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were recorded in indigenous communities in March.

Those who have died were in the health care, traditional healing, politics, and education. Chiefs and leaders of their own tribes were also among those who died.

In February, the last male indigenous leader of the Juma people, Aruka Juma, died from COVID-related complications. The Juma people date back to the 18th century.

Bitate Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau confirmed his grandfather's death. He was part of the Jamari village. Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau claimed that it's what the federal government wants - to diminish indigenous tribes and lands for agribusiness. He added that they are facing a great challenge in countering this.

Brazil COVID-19 Cases

The death toll in the country had reached 425,540 on Tuesday. The Ministry of Health reported 2,311 additional deaths from the pandemic in just a day. They also detected 72,715 new COVID-19 cases in just one day.

A total of 15,282,705 people in the country have been tested positive for the COVID-19. After the United States, Brazil has the world's second-highest COVID-19 death toll.

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