2 Environmental Activists Shot Dead In Brazil, As Congress Debates Loosening Restrictions On Clearing Amazon Rainforest

May 26, 2011 7:00 am 0 comments

A burnt down section of the Amazon rainforest. Photo by LeRoc.

Today in Latin America

Top Story — An environmental activist committed to protecting the Amazon rainforest was shot dead, along with his wife, Brazilian authorities said Wednesday.

Rubber tapper José Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva were shot down by gunman in a small city in the northern state of Pará on Tuesday.

The murder of the couple recalled the 1988 killing of environmental activist and labor organizer Francisco Alves “Chico” Mendes, who was also a rubber tapper. A cattle rancher shot Mendes to death after being denied permission to clear a new tract of land. Killings related to environmental and land disputes are fairly common in Brazil, according to the Pastoral Land Commission, which has documented some 1,150 such murders since Mendes’ death.

The couple worked for an environmental NGO focused on the Amazon called CNS, which Mendes founded.

News of the murders came hours before Brazil’s lower house voted 273 to 182 to pass a controversial bill to reform the Forest Code. The measure would allow small farmers more liberty to cultivate and deforest protected environmental areas in the Amazon forest. The measure would also grant amnesty to those guilty of illegally deforesting the area prior to 2008 (such crimes are punishable by fines).

The driving force behind the bill is Aldo Rebelo, head of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCdoB), who says the reform will favor small farmers. Supporters also argue that the law would help boost local food producers.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, loudly oppose the measure. “I consider it an act of violence against nature,” said Alcides Faria of the NGO Ecoa, referring to the proposed law. The proposal has touched off an international controversy, as the foreign press sounds alarms over the possibility of accelerating damage of the Amazon rainforest.

There are signs that those concerns may be valid. Deforestation of the area legally defined as the Amazon rainforest rose 26 percent over the last two months, O Globo reported. Representatives of the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Resources (IBAMA, in Portuguese) said some infractors operated under the assumption that if the reform succeeds, they will not be responsible for fines.

“If people believe that, they’re completely mistaken,” said Rui Prado of the Agricultural Federation of Mato Gross. “There’s a cutoff date and it’s 2008, so whoever cuts down forest from 2008 to now isn’t getting any amnesty.”

The bill now goes to the Senate and must be approved by President Dilma Rousseff to become law. But the Rousseff administration does not support the bill as it currently stands and threatened to veto it if the Senate does not ramp up penalties for repeat offenders and remove an amendment giving state governments the power to designate protected environmental areas, according to Brazilian daily A Folha de São Paulo.

Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Caribbean

Central America

Andes

Southern Cone

Image:LeRoc @ Flickr.

Subscribe to Today in Latin America by Email

No Comments

Leave a Reply


Other News

  • Andes Today in Latin America Venezuela Obama Signs Bill Authorizing Sanctions Against Venezuelan Officials

    Obama Signs Bill Authorizing Sanctions Against Venezuelan Officials

    The Latin America News Dispatch will take a short break from publishing our daily newsletter Today in Latin America to celebrate the holidays. Felices Fiestas from the Latin America News Dispatch staff. Top Story — U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday signed a law placing sanctions on “persons responsible for violations of human rights in Venezuela,” the White House press secretary said in a statement. The sanctions bill will freeze the U.S. assets of, and strip visas from, officials responsible […]

    Read more →
  • Cuba Dispatches North America United States Cuba ‘Not Open For Business’ Just Yet

    Cuba ‘Not Open For Business’ Just Yet

    The United States and Cuba may be normalizing relations, but don’t expect a major trade boom for now. While the changes announced by President Obama will widen the types of financial transactions allowed between the two countries and permit more forms of trade and travel, a broadly restrictive embargo on trade with Cuba remains in place, and firmly under the control of the U.S. Congress. As U.S. diplomats prepare to set up an embassy in Havana for the first time […]

    Read more →
  • Caribbean Cuba North America Today in Latin America Latin America Lauds U.S., Cuba Breakthrough

    Latin America Lauds U.S., Cuba Breakthrough

    Top Story — World leaders have almost universally praised the U.S. and Cuban governments for their announcement Wednesday that they would normalize diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961. Reaction among U.S. lawmakers, however, was more mixed. Latin American leaders across the ideological spectrum lauded the decision that will have sweeping impacts across the region. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos praised “the courage and the audacity of President Barack Obama and the Cuban government,” and Mexican President Enrique Peña […]

    Read more →
  • Caribbean Cuba News Briefs North America United Nations United States Transcript: Obama’s Cuba Speech

    Transcript: Obama’s Cuba Speech

    Below is a full transcript of President Obama’s speech on Cuba. A video of the speech can be found following the transcript. OBAMA: Good afternoon. Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba. In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead, we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. […]

    Read more →
  • Caribbean Cuba News Briefs North America United States U.S., Cuba to Restore Diplomatic Ties, But Embargo Remains

    U.S., Cuba to Restore Diplomatic Ties, But Embargo Remains

    The U.S. and Cuba will work to normalize diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961, President Obama said Wednesday, a major shift in policy that nonetheless falls short of the outright removal of the U.S. economic blockade on the island. The announcement comes after Cuba’s release of American aid contractor Alan Gross from prison, in exchange for the release of three Cubans jailed in the state of Florida for espionage — a sign of good faith between the two […]

    Read more →
  • Brazil Southern Cone Today in Latin America Charges Filed Against Brazilian Lawmaker After Rape Remarks

    Charges Filed Against Brazilian Lawmaker After Rape Remarks

    Top Story — Brazil’s attorney general filed charges of incitement to rape against Brazilian congressman Jair Bolsonaro after he made violent comments to a fellow lawmaker in Congress last Tuesday, saying, “I wouldn’t rape you. You’re not worth it.” It is the second time Bolsonaro, a right-wing representative from Rio de Janeiro state known for misogynist remarks, has used the word inappropriately in Congress. Bolsonaro’s comments were directed at Maria do Rosário, a former secretary of human rights, as she […]

    Read more →
  • Central America Dispatches Honduras Alternatives to Detention Leave Some Honduran Immigrants in “Shackles”

    Alternatives to Detention Leave Some Honduran Immigrants in “Shackles”

    NEW YORK — On an average weekday Eva, a 39-year-old woman from Honduras, never leaves a 15-block radius in the Bronx. From bringing her two children to school, to taking English classes, visiting her church and running errands, her life is mapped on a now-familiar route — one that is precisely tracked by the electronic monitoring device strapped to her ankle. Eva, who asked to have her name changed because she is currently going through deportation hearings, received the device […]

    Read more →
  • Caribbean Haiti Today in Latin America Haitian Prime Minister Defends Record After Resignation

    Haitian Prime Minister Defends Record After Resignation

    Top Story — Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe spoke out on Monday, defending his legacy after an independent commission set up by President Michel Martelly pressured him to resign over the weekend. Several other ministers also stepped down amid a political standoff that has been years in the making. Lamothe’s resignation comes in the wake of continued anti-government protests demanding elections that have been delayed since 2011. On Friday, U.N. peacekeepers were seen firing at a crowd of protesters while […]

    Read more →
  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Mexican Federal Police Implicated in Student Killings

    Mexican Federal Police Implicated in Student Killings

    Top Story — Federal authorities in Mexico appear to have participated in the September attack on a group of teacher trainees in the state of Guerrero, contrary to prior government claims, according to an investigation released Saturday by Proceso magazine. Proceso’s investigation reportedly uncovered state documents that show federal police officers knew the attack was ongoing and even shot at the students as they travelled on several buses toward a protest event in Iguala, Guerrero. After that attack, 43 of […]

    Read more →
  • Caribbean Cuba News Briefs Cuban Laws May Have Changed, But the Jokes Haven’t

    Cuban Laws May Have Changed, But the Jokes Haven’t

    In 2010, I found myself among hundreds of heeled and hairsprayed Cubans in Havana’s Teatro Karl Marx waiting for the start of the Premios Lucas — a sort of MTV Video Music Awards of Cuba. Hosted by beloved comedian Luis Silva and with performances by pop, rock and reggaeton groups, “Los Lucas” was sure to be a revelatory peek into the popular culture consumption of my Cuban peers. Los Lucas did not disappoint. Every moment of the two-hour show was […]

    Read more →