Agroextractivist leader executed in Pará

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

jose claudio and maria do espiritu santoAgroextractivist José Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo were murdered on May 23 in Nova Ipixuna in the southeast of Pará. The couple had been threatened by loggers in the region. The information was confirmed by the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) of Maraba. Both were leaving the Praia Alta Piranheira Agroextractivist Settlement Project where they lived en route to the town center when they were trapped on a bridge and shot.

José Claudio had been receiving death threats because of his role in fighting on behalf of rural workers and agroextractivists, and because of his project, which is supported by the Federal University of Pará (UFPA). His name was on the list of those who had received death threats.

“My job is to support the forest. I want the forest and its people to stand tall. But because of my work, the timber businesses threaten me with death; I am threatened by those who do not want to see the forest stand. And this has been causing me many problems because when we speak of life, it is in the interests of preserving it. In the same way, I fight for a living forest”, he is seen telling an audience on a video recorded last year.

Despite continuing death threats, the couple were unable to obtain police protection.

Below are some quotations from José Claudio Ribeiro.

Regarding the absence of public law/authority in the region:

Between money and a fellow who protects the environment, the guys choose the money because money is something that moves big people who are keen to make more. This is not true in my case.

About the loggers:
They buy wood from a farmhand at a ridiculously low price and sell it for a large amount on the market. They falsify documents because they don't have the right ones. They find a way to do it. They falsify one, falsify another and end up creating an illegal market. They are the termites of the earth.

A message to the world:
A message to the people of the world, people who consume what the forest produces: be careful. When you buy wood to construct your house, look for the certification: from where it comes, its origin. Only this way will we be able to break and crack down on those guys [the loggers]. I have a saying that goes: 'Thieves exist because there are people who buy the stolen items. Destruction takes place because people buy the illegal wood.'

Translated by Eric H.