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Full Version: José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva [Amazonian Environmental Activist] Murdered!
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Amazon rainforest activist shot dead

José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva fought against illegal loggers and had received death threats but was refused police protection

Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro, Tuesday 24 May 2011 19.59 BST

José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva had predicted his own murder six months before he was killed and received frequent death threats.

Six months after predicting his own murder, a leading rainforest defender has reportedly been gunned down in the Brazilian Amazon. José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo, are said to have been killed in an ambush near their home in Nova Ipixuna, in Pará state, about 37 miles from Marabá.

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.

On Tuesday there were conflicting reports from about whether the killing happened on Monday night or Tuesday morning. A police spokesperson said there were reports of a "double homicide" at the settlement called Maçaranduba 2.

In a speech at a TEDx event in Manaus, in November, Da Silva spoke of his fears that loggers would try to silence him. "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."

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.

"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."

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.
Very sad. A great loss to the forests and all of us who love them. I doubt there will be any justice in this case even if the central government supported his work.
Francisco Alves Mendes Filho , AKA Chico Mendes (December 15, 1944 December 22, 1988), was a Brazilian rubber tapper, unionist and environmental activist. He fought to stop the logging of the Amazon Rainforest to clear land for cattle ranching, and founded a national union of rubber tappers in an attempt to preserve their profession and the rainforest that it relied upon. He was murdered in 1988 by ranchers opposed to his activism.
Published on Thursday, May 26, 2011 by The Independent/UK

Slash and Burn: Brazil Shreds Laws Protecting Its Rainforests

The new bill relaxes laws on the deforestation of hilltops and the amount of vegetation farmers must preserve. Partial amnesties will also be offered for previous fines

by Guy Adams

Brazil has taken a big step towards passing new laws that will loosen restrictions on the amount of Amazon rainforest that farmers can destroy, after its lower house of parliament voted in favour of updating the country's 46-year-old forest code.

[Image: slashandburnbrazilshreds.jpg] A deforested sector of the Amazon forest in the state of Para, in northern Brazil. In a move described as "disastrous" by conservationists, the nation's congress backed a bill relaxing laws on the deforestation of hilltops and the amount of vegetation farmers must preserve. (AFP/Getty Images)

In a move described as "disastrous" by conservationists, the nation's congress backed a bill relaxing laws on the deforestation of hilltops and the amount of vegetation farmers must preserve. The law also offers partial amnesties for fines levied against landowners who have illegally destroyed tracts of rainforest. The legislation, which must still be passed by the Brazillian Senate and approved by President Dilma Rousseff, aims to help owners of smaller farms and ranches compete with under-regulated rivals in countries such as the USA and Argentina.

At present, under Brazil's forest code passed in 1965, 80 per cent of all property in the Amazon basin is supposed to be left as untouched forest. In other parts of the country, that figure ranges from between 20 and 35 per cent, depending on the ecosystem of the particular region.

Farmers found to have breached the regulations have until now been required to pay large fines and plant sufficient trees to bring their landholdings up to required standards. But the system is scrappily enforced and only 10 per cent of landowners are currently believed to be in complete compliance with the rules.

Under the new code, forest that was illegally cleared between 1965 and 2008 will be exempted from regulation. In addition, farmers will, for the first time, be allowed to count land along rivers and lakes as part of their legal preserves. And strict rules governing deforestation of hilltops and slopes will be relaxed.

"It's a disaster. It heightens the risk of deforestation, water depletion and erosion," Paulo Gustavo Prado, head of environmental policy at Conservation International-Brazil, told Reuters. He believes that the new bill will result in the loss of roughly 10 per cent of Brazil's remaining rainforest.

Philip Fearnside, of the government's National Institute for Amazon Research, told the Associated Press that the "amnesty" for farmers who broke the law before 2008 will result in further illegal deforestation.

"The proposed amnesty upholds a long tradition in Brazil of legalising the illegal. People believe they can deforest illegally because sooner or later all will be forgiven."

Supporters of the bill, who have been heavily lobbied by farming groups, say the old forest code was impossible to enforce, and argue that the more relaxed laws will help them achieve better compliance.

They also decided to veto the clause in the new forest code most feared by conservationists, which would have completely removed all limits on preserving trees for small farmers and ranchers.

About 20 per cent of Brazil's rainforest has already been destroyed, and the battle to preserve the remainder arouses heated debate. Yesterday, it emerged that a green activist, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva, had been shot and killed in the jungle state of Para in northern Brazil. He recently predicted that he would be murdered for criticising deforestation by local ranchers.

A watchdog group, which protects activists and small farmers in the region, said yesterday that the gunmen had cut off Mr Silva's ear, probably so that they could prove to the people who hired them that they had carried out the hit.

Assassinations of environmentalists continue in Brazil's Amazon, deforestation rises
May 28, 2011
Murders tied to land disputes in rural Brazil
[good graphs of assassinations and forest destruction at original site of article!]
A community leader in the Brazilian Amazon was slain Friday just three days after two environmentalists were killed in a neighboring state, reports Reuters.

Adelino "Dinho" Ramos, the president of the Movimento Camponeses Corumbiara e da Associação dos Camponeses do Amazonas, a small farmers association, was gunned down front of his family Friday morning in Rondônia. Brazil's Special Secretariat for Human Rights, an office of the president, said it was unclear who killed Ramos, who had received death threats from loggers. Ramos survived a 1995 massacre in which 13 people were killed.

His killing came just three days after Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espirito Santo, were killed in an ambush near their home in the state of Pará. Suspicion immediately fell on illegal loggers linked to the charcoal trade that supplies pig iron smelters in the region. Da Silva had been a prominent environmentalist and the recipient of international recognition as well as numbers death threats.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff has already ordered a federal investigation into the murder of the da Silvas, which has been widely condemned.

Environmentalists say their death could catalyze further opposition to proposed changes to Brazil's Forestry Code, which would weaken protections for the Amazon rainforest. They cite the 1988 murder of rubber-tapper Chico Mendes, which helped spark global awareness of destruction of the Amazon rainforest, and the 2005 killing of Dorothy Stang, an American nun who opposed illegal logging and land-grabbing, which triggered a crack down by federal agents and the establishment of new protected areas.

The Brazilian Amazon remains a violent region. According to the Pastoral Land Commission (Comissão Pastoral da Terra) some 393 people were killed in rural land disputes between 2000 and 2010, including 71 murders in Rondonia since 2001. Crimes are rarely solved.

Tensions are presently high in the Brazilian Amazon due to rising commodity prices, which boost land values and exacerbates conflict. The agricultural lobby is pushing for a relaxation of the Forest Code to allow more rainforest to be cleared for crops and pastureland. The present Forest Code requires farmers and ranchers to maintain 80 percent forest cover on their land, although the rule is widely ignored.

Anticipation of amnesty for illegal deforestation under the new Forest Code is thought to be a contributing factor in a sharp rise in deforestation over land year.

Rio+20 Breaking News: Activists who spoke at the Peoples' Summit killed

Cross-Posted from Front Line Defenders, June 28th, 2012See Action Alert in Next Blog Post[Image: mr_joao_luiz_telles_penetra_june_27.jpg]João Luiz Telles Penetra. Photo courtesy Front Line Defenders
EJOLT partner Professor Marcelo Firpo has just send us a sad message:"I was with two fishermen on 19 June in a meeting at Peoples´Summit discussing the impacts of big projects (basically oil, mining and steel) in Rio de Janeiro State. Three days later they disappeared when went to work. They have just been found dead. The media is considering this case without importance and we will need more national and international pressure in order to protect other people and to investigate who have killed them."
On 24 and 25 June 2012 the bodies of human rights defenders Mr Almir Nogueira de Amorim and Mr João Luiz Telles Penetra were found following their disappearance on 23 June 2012.
Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra, or "Pituca" as he was known, were both leaders of the Associação Homens do Mar AHOMAR (Association of Sea Men) which was set up in 2009 to defend the rights of the fisher-folk working in Rio de Janeiro, and particularly those affected by the construction of a gas pipeline for Petrobras. Since the founding of the organisation its members have reported being subjected to death threats, physical attacks and killings. According to AHOMAR's members, the attacks are perpetrated by people linked to death squads, security guards hired by the companies in charge of building pipelines and militias operating in the region.
On the afternoon of 25 June 2012, João Luiz Telles Penetra's body was found on the banks of Guanabara Bay by employees of a shipyard. The fisherman's corpse was bound at his hands and feet by rope. The previous day, at around midday, the body of Almir Nogueira de Amorim was found tied to his boat. He had bruises on his neck and the boat had several holes in the hull.
On 22 June 2012, at approximately 4:00pm, Almir Nogueira de Amorim went to João Luiz Telles Penetra's home in Ilha de Paquetá, a neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, to collect him to go fishing. It is common practice for fishermen in the region to go at that time and return late at night or early the following day. When they had not returned by the following day, local fishermen and fire fighters began a search of the Guanabara Bay.
Almir Nogueira de Amorim was a founding member and vocal activist of AHOMAR. João Luiz Telles Penetra was the leader of the association in Ilha de Paquetá and had been a key figure in a new campaign launched by the organisation. He led the struggle against Petrobras' construction plans in Guaxindiba river, located within the Área de Proteção Ambiental Guapimirim (Environmental Protected Area of Guapimirim). The oil company wants to deepen the river to create a waterway, which would eliminate any possibility of fishing in these waters.
Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra are not the first members of AHOMAR to be murdered. On 19 January 2010, fisherman and human rights defender Marcio Amaro was assassinated one day after a demonstration organised by AHOMAR took place in front of the Petrobras headquarters in downtown Rio de Janeiro. Prior to his killing Marcio Amaro had filed a formal complaint concerning the presence of unlawfully armed men in Petrobras construction sites in Guanabara Bay. On 22 May 2009 Paulo César dos Santos Souza, former treasurer of the association, was killed in front of his wife and children after being shot in the head five times. The crime occurred six hours after a government inspection decided to stop the pipeline construction due to irregularities. To date no one has been brought to justice for these killings.
The president of AHOMAR Mr Alexandre Anderson de Souza, has been under the National Protection Programme for Human Rights Defenders for the past three years. However he, and his family, still face many risks. Reportedly at least three other leaders of AHOMAR received death threats in recent months. Even with the high rate of violence in the region of Mauá and all the threats faced by human rights defenders, the only police station covering the region was shut down on 13 February 2012.
Front Line Defenders believes the murder of Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra is directly related to their human rights activities, in particular their work to defend the rights of the fisherfolk in Rio de Janeiro, and is seriously concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of their family members and other members of the association.