Brazilian activist killed in Amazon, hours before congress approves opening protected forests to agriculture
Two pieces of very sad news from Brazil this week.
Jose Maria de la Silva, a prolific activist fighting to protect Brazil’s precious Amazon rainforest was shot and killed along with his wife on Monday night at their home in Nova Ipixuna. Da Silva, a rubber tapper, fought for many years against the deforestation of the Amazon, and had received frequent death threats. Six months ago he predicted his own murder.
From the Guardian UK:
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.”
While the timing may be an unfortunate coincidence, the announcement of Da Silva’s death came just two days before Brazil’s lower house of congress approved a reform to open up protected forests to farmers and loggers.
From the Independent:
The bill, which now goes to the Senate, was initially intended as a measure to rein in unfettered logging, and increase protections of Brazil’s forested areas, which play an important role in reducing greenhouse gases.
But farm-based economic interests prevailed against environmentalists in reshaping the bill to ease restrictions that have been in place since 1965 and are credited with curbing deforestation.
“The Chamber of Deputies (on Tuesday) turned what was a forest protection law into something that will encourage deforestation and the uncontrolled advance of farming and ranching,” the NGO Greenpeace charged in a statement.
Environmentalists, scientists and ten former environment ministers fought to the bitter end to stop the bill.
The development was seen as a first setback for President Dilma Rousseff who enjoys majority support in Congress but was unable to keep her party united as powerful rural lobbies managed to divide lawmakers.
Izabella Teixeira, the environment minister, has warned that the president could veto points in the bill that might encourage deforestation.
But National Farm Federation chief Katia Abreu said, “Brazil’s farm and ranch interests are celebrating the step forward.”
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