Home News Life ‘Rainforest mafia’ kills and threatens inhabitants of the Amazon

‘Rainforest mafia’ kills and threatens inhabitants of the Amazon

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Human rights violations are daily reported in the Amazon region of Brazil, according to a Human Rights Watch report. People who want to protect the jungle against illegal logging are killed or threatened by criminal organizations.

This concerns residents of the Amazon – who are trying to protect their own habitat – as well as civil servants and small farmers who are confronted with violence.

More than 300 people have been killed in the last ten years. In the Human Rights Watch report, 28 murders and more than 40 death threats were documented. The majority of victims are indigenous people of the Amazon. Only in a few cases were the perpetrators prosecuted.

Since 2011, at least four people have been killed around the Areia settlement in the state of Pará. Resident Jõao Carlos Baú first worked as a lumberjack, but was not paid according to agreement. He and two colleagues therefore threatened to report illegal logging and poor working conditions to the government. According to villagers, the trio was killed shortly afterwards by other lumberjacks.

A fourth former lumberjack was shot dead after he had heard sound recordings from a group involved in illegal logging at the Brazilian Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The Pereira couple, with a small-scale farm in the same village, started a women’s movement in 2011 that deals with organic farming methods and combating deforestation.

Since that time, Daniel and Osvalinda have been threatened by criminal organizations that cut down trees in the area. Armed men regularly ‘visit’ the couple’s home. One morning the couple found two fake graves in their garden, including wooden crosses.

According to the human rights organization, the murders and death threats are not so much the woodcutters’ initiative, but are commissioned by criminal organizations behind the illegal logging. They have the money to operate on a large scale and to use armed militias to protect their interests.

The ‘rainforest mafia’ is looking for valuable wood species and wants to completely cut down the trees in some areas to make room for livestock farming and growing crops. The land is often rented or sold to farmers, often with fake papers.

Human Rights Watch also denounces the role of Brazilian president Bolsonaro. Enforcement of environmental legislation has been scaled back since his appointment last year. The president has also criticized people and interest groups trying to protect the rainforest.

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