Forest defender assassinated in Amazon

In a case being compared to that of Chico Mendes, the Amazon defender killed in 1988, US missionary Sister Dorothy Stang was shot dead by unknown assailants at a remote jungle settlement near Anapu in the Brazilian state of Para Feb. 12. Stang, 74, of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, had been a campaigner for human rights and forest protection in the Amazon for three decades, and had reported receiving numerous death threats from land speculators and cattle barons. The Brazilian Order of Lawyers (OAB) had placed her name on a list of threatened activists, and granted her a human rights award for her work in communities along the Trans-Amazonian Highway. President Luis Inacio da Silva pledges an aggressive investigation, but his administration has recently come under criticism from rights advocates and ecologists for caving in to demands from loggers and ranchers to lift restrictions which placed large swaths of the Amazon off-limits to exploitation. Last month, loggers blocked highways and rivers in the region, burned buses, threatened to pollute rivers with toxic chemicals and warned that "blood will flow" if da Silva’s government did not lift the decrees. (NYT, Feb. 14; Reuters, Feb. 12)