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BRAZIL
Moves toward deforestation
6/2/2011
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Infrastructure and agriculture on governments priority list as violence grows against environmental activists.

Over the past two months, Brazil’s government has steamed forward with its plans to become an industrial and agricultural leader, but the fight has recently turned bloody.

On May 24, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva, a well-known forest conservationist, and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva, were gunned down in the Amazon state of Rondônia of northwestern Brazil, near the Praialta-Piranheira nature reserve they had spent years protecting in the northern Amazon state of Pará by what police later said to appeared to have been hired killers. They were murdered the day Brazilian lawmakers approved changes to a 1960s-era forestry law that would ease environmental restrictions for clearing land, a move many critics say will speed up deforestation. On May 27, environmentalist Adelino Ramos was killed also in Rondônia. One day later, Erenildo Silveira dos Santos, whom police say witnessed the couple’s murder, was killed as well.

Environmental activists are demanding the government provide more protection for the dozens who are facing death threats. They have also appealed to President Dilma Rousseff’s administration to end impunity in these cases. Of the 1,580 reported murders of activists over the past 25 years, there have been just 91 trials, and only 21 convictions.

In a statement May 30, the Pastoral Land Commission, an organization under the Catholic Church, said it “demands strong and efficient response of the government, recognizing and giving titles for the lands of Amazon villages and communities, establishing limits to logging and agribusinesses’ greed for nature’s goods.”

But the violence appears has done little to deter the government from its push to increase industry at the expense of the country’s delicate and already threatened ecosystems as well as most vulnerable populations, including isolated indigenous communities.

On June 1, Brazil’s environmental agency, Ibama, granted a permit for the construction of the Belo Monte dam, the proposed US$16 billion-project on the Xingu River which would be the world’s third-largest hydroelectric power station in the world. Environmentalists and indigenous rights activists have launched a global campaign against the project to warn about the irreparable social and ecological damage the dam and required flooding would cause.
—Latinamerica Press. 


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