Brazil: Amazon defenders slain; timber barons suspected

José Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria Do Espirito Santo da Silva, were ambushed and killed on May 24, while riding their motorbikes on a road close to their home in the village of Nova Ipixuna, in Brazil’s Para state. The couple had spent years campaigning against illegal logging in the area, including setting up roadblocks to stop timber vehicles. An ear was removed from each of the corpses, in what authorities call a clear sign that someone was trying to send a message. Police admit they suspect the hit was ordered by “loggers in the region.” Eremilton Pereira dos Santos, a young local man who went missing last week, was also later found dead. His relatives say he may have been killed because he’d witnessed the da Silvas’’ murderers fleeing the scene of the crime. Ribeiro told a Manaus conference entitled TEDx Amazônia last November that he was in danger of his life. “I denounce the loggers and the charcoal makers, and because of this they think that I should not exist,” he told the audience. “I could be here today talking to you and in one month you will get the news that I disappeared. I will protect the forest at all costs. That is why I could get a bullet in my head at any moment… As long as I have the strength to walk I will denounce all of those who damage the forest.”

The murder took place the same day the lower house of the Brazilian congress approved a change to the forestry code that would allow agribusiness and ranchers to clear even more land in the Amazon rainforest. Deforestation rose 27% in Brazil from August 2010 to April 2011, largely due to soybean plantations. (InsightCrime, June 3, Toward Freedom, May 31)

See our last post on the Brazilian Amazon.

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