A prominent Brazilian conservationist and his wife have been killed in the Amazon region, police have said.
They said Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espirito Santo were ambushed near their home in Nova Ipixuna, in Para state, near the city of Maraba. The bodies of the couple were found inside the nature reserve, Praialta-Piranheira, where they had been working for the past 24 years.
Repeated Death Threats
The government has ordered an immediate investigation and promised to catch those responsible for the deaths of Mr Da Silva and his wife.
It turns out that the environmentalist had repeatedly warned of death threats against him by loggers and cattle ranchers, but had never received police protection.
“My Fear Does Not Silence Me”
From The Guardian:
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.
New Forest Code For Brazil
The BBC reports that news of the deaths came just hours before Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies voted on changes to the existing Forest Code. The new bill, which now needs approval from the Senate and President Dilma Rousseff, reduces the amount of land farmers must keep as forest.
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.
“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.” Da Silva’s words are inspiration for all of us.
Photo Credit: accosta via Creative Commons