Amazon conservation activist and wife shot dead in Brazil

[singlepic id=306 w460 h=287 float=left]An Amazon rainforest activist and his wife have been shot dead in northern Brazil as the country’s Congress debated a divisive land bill that threatens to increase deforestation.

Federal authorities said a rubber tapper and leading forest conservationist, whom Brazil’s presidency identified as Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva, and his wife Maria do Espirito Santo were ambushed and killed in the Amazon state of Para. It was not immediately clear who shot the couple but Mr Da Silva had been warned of death threats against him by loggers and cattle ranchers. Both victims were active in the same organisation of forest workers that was founded by legendary conservationist Chico Mendes, who was assassinated by ranchers in 1988.

Mr Da Silva, who frequented local and international seminars on Amazon protection, worked in defence of forest dwellers who make a living by extracting renewable resources such as nuts, rubber and fruits. His death renews concern over the often violent conflicts surrounding natural resources in Latin America’s largest country – and comes at a particularly sensitive time for the government.

The lower house of Congress was debating an overhaul of Brazil’s law on land usage that critics say represents a surrender to farming interests and would set back recent progress in protecting the Amazon. Last week officials reported a sharp rise in deforestation that environmentalists said was likely fuelled by expectations the new law, which gives amnesties much of the illegal tree-felling in recent decades, would pass..

President Dilma Rousseff ordered a federal police investigation into the murders. Brazilian federal police normally deal only with homicides in cases of human rights violations. “Jose Claudio had been marked to die long ago, since he began denouncing deforestation and the illegal extraction of timber in the region,” the grassroots network Forum of the Eastern Amazon said on its web page. “Once again they kill those who defend the forest.” Local conservationists and some other Brazilian media refer to him as Jose.

Each year dozens of people in Brazil are killed in land disputes, many in the sprawling and sparsely policed Amazon region.

1 comment to Amazon conservation activist and wife shot dead in Brazil

  • Barry O'Dowd

    Very sad to hear this bad news. He is a martyr to the cause of saving the environment and to human rights, may he rest in peace. Once again, greed kills…..