Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Two Brazilian Environmentalists Murdered in Rainforest

Whatever the problem, whatever the cruelty, whatever the injustice - look for the money. Unfortunately, the love of money has no boundaries it won't break; no living creature it won't destroy; no crime it won't commit; no heart it won't break; no depravity it won't sink to.

This has been proved once again. This time deep in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. Two incredibly brave environmentalists were murdered by snipers hiding in the undergrowth. How brave! Couldn't face an unarmed middle-aged man and his wife. Their mothers must be so proud of them.

The motive? José Cláudio and his wife Maria were unfailing in their attempts to bring worldwide attention to the illegal logging in the rainforest. Stopping the illegal logging would mean the loss of millions in illegal dollars. The choice was clear - the environmentalists had to be stopped at all costs.

The world is a poorer place for the loss of these two brave friends of the planet. RIP: José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espírito Santo

Photo courtesy: Stephen Messenger via TreeHugger

According to reports from Brazilian media, two environmentalists known for their outspoken opposition to deforestation in the Amazon have been killed in a manner investigators are describing as an execution. José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espírito Santo, his wife, were found shot to death near their settlement in the Brazilian state of Para, where they offered firsthand accounts of illegal logging. Just six months earlier Ribeiro da Silva foreshadowed his own demise: "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."

Roberto Smeraldi, founder and director of the environmental group Amigos da Terra, who worked with Da Silva in the Amazon, said he had been in a meeting with Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, discussing changes to the forest code when the news broke of Da Silva being killed. "He was convinced he would be killed one day," Smeraldi said. He added that Da Silva had been "very active" in the fight against illegal forest burning and logging. According to Brazilian media reports, Rousseff has asked her chief of staff, Gilberto Carvalho, to offer support to the murder investigation.

Police delegate Marcos Augusto Cruz says that the two Amazon activists were heading back towards their camp early this morning when they were shot and killed by snipers. "The perpetrators were already lying in wait. They waited there for the victims to commit murder," Cruz said in an interview with G1 Globo.

According to a local newspaper, Diário do Pará, the couple had not had police protection despite getting frequent death threats because of their battle against illegal loggers and ranchers.

"Absolutely, it was a crime to order, at the behest of someone. The characteristics are typical of an execution," added Cruz.

"We now have another Chico Mendes," said Felipe Milanez, an environmental journalist from São Paulo, referring to the Amazonian rubber-tapper who became an environmental martyr after his murder in 1988. Milanez said that in a recent phone conversation with Da Silva's wife she had suggested the situation was "getting very ugly". Milanez added: "He knew the threats were very real. He was scared."

Photo courtesy: Amazoon Press via TreeHugger

According to police, no suspects have yet been named in the murders, though in a speech made recently at a TEDx conference, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva spoke about the numerous threats he faces for rising in defense of the Amazon rainforest:
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 ... because I denounce the loggers and charcoal producers, and that is why they think I cannot exist.

[People] ask me, 'are you afraid?' Yes, I'm a human being, of course I am afraid. But my fear does not silence me. As long as I have the strength to walk I will denounce all of those who damage the forest.

In this video, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva talks about his life, his environmental work and his hopes for the futures. If you cannot understand the language, there is a very small button marked "cc" on the bottom of the video. This stands for closed captions and will allow you to follow his talk via subtitles if you don't speak Spanish. One of the best nine minutes you'll ever spend.

Both forest activists had been active in reporting deforestation in the Amazon since 1997, though in recent years they'd come under threat from unknown assailants. According to a family member of the murdered environmentalists, Claudelice Silva dos Santos, the couple's house had been ransacked previously, and guns had been fired near their residence on prior occasions.

"Many people had an interest in his death," says Claudelice.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has issued a full investigation into the murders.

A 2008 report compiled by Brazilian human rights groups listed Da Silva as one of dozens of Amazon human rights and environmental activists "considered at risk" of assassination.

Via TreeHugger and guardian


David Wilson said...

here is his TEDx talk with english subtitles

Pippa said...

Thanks, David. I didn't realize that the "cc" button was hidden on the video.