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Inside Story Americas

Blood in the Amazon

Why do those who speak out forcefully against illegal logging and ranching often pay with their lives?

Last Modified: 04 Apr 2013 09:17
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"Environmental leaders, they are threatened, they have been threatened for a long time, and they had been telling people that they were threatened. Everyone knew, and people knew who were threatening them, it's quite established."

- Natalia Viana, director of Publica, an investigative reporting centre

Jose Claudio Ribeira and his wife Maria do Espirto Santo dedicated their lives to protecting the Amazon and developing a way to live sustainably off the land, but their campaign against loggers and ranchers made them prime targets.

Their murder two years ago captured headlines around their world, but their story is far from unique.

A report released last year by the environmental advocacy group Global Witness, found that between 2002 and 2011 more than 300 environment activists have been killed in Brazil, and it is very rare that anyone is held accountable.

According to the report, Brazil has the highest rates of killings of environmental activists. They found that 711 activists were killed worldwide from 2002 to 2011 - and 365 of those murders happened in Brazil.

"In current day [in] Brazil, unfortunately we are afraid that ... protections are being weakened in favour of different economic interests, in favour of logging interests, in favour of large land interests, in favour of mining, and there is very powerful agri business lobby, within the Brazilian Congress right now, that is pushing for a whole series of reforms."

-Andrew Miller, coordinator Amazon Watch

Another NGO, the Pastoral Land Commission , reported that  918 people were killed across Brazil's Amazon between 1985 and April 2011, but trials were only held in 27 of those cases.

So, why do so many such murders go unnoticed? And what are the Brazilian authorities doing for preventing those crimes?

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, discusses with guests: Natalia Viana, the director of the investigative reporting centre Publica, and author of the book Planted in the earth; Andrew Miller, the advocacy coordinator with Amazon Watch, an NGO founded in 1996 to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin; and Mark London, co-author of the book The last forest: The Amazon in the Age of Globalization. 

If the Brazilian National Forces leave, I'll have to leave first. Me and my husband will have to leave ... before we get killed ....  A while ago when I came to the hospital...a guy asked me what I was doing there. He said I had bulletproof protection for my body but my head was not protected."

- Nilcilene Miguel de Lima, an Amazon activist

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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