After Assassination of American-Born Nun, Greenpeace Calls on Brazil to Stop Violence in Rainforest

Media release - February 15, 2005
Greenpeace is mourning the death of Sister Dorothy Stang, a longtime advocate for the disempowered in the Brazilian Amazon. The 74-year-old nun was assassinated by two gunmen on Saturday in the state of Pará, Brazil, as she was travelling to a sustainable development project in Anapú. Greenpeace had worked with Sister Dorothy to oppose corrupt logging companies in the region.

"Words cannot express our sorrow at the loss of Sister Dorothy," said John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace in the United States. "I send our deepest condolences to her family, friends and members of her order. And I promise that we will not let her death be in vain."

In a letter sent to Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva yesterday, Passacantando and the executive directors of Greenpeace International and Greenpeace Brazil called on the Brazilian government and Pará authorities to bring the killers to justice and put an end to the lawlessness that rules the remote areas of the Amazon.

"We cannot accept more martyrs in the Amazon," read the letter. "We trust that the Brazilian government will assume full responsibility for bringing justice to this crime and will implement concrete measures to end the causes of this violence and guarantee a sustainable future for the Amazon forest and its inhabitants."

Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Sister Dorothy had worked in the Amazon for the past 37 years, living in Anapú since 1972. She was an outspoken critic of land grabbers and illegal loggers who use intimidation and violence to force small landowners off their land. Her work made her the target of many death threats.

"The Pará government failed to protect her," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon coordinator who had worked with Sister Dorothy. "But she was not alone. There are many others who risk their lives fighting against forest destruction and for the rights of local communities. The violence and intimidation must stop."

For years, Greenpeace has worked with local communities and federal authorities in Brazil to stop illegal logging and other destructive operations in the Amazon. Approximately one-third of the deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon takes place in Pará, and the state is notorious for both environmental abuse and human rights violations. In October 2003, Greenpeace published State of Conflict, a report detailing the criminal practices used by major logging companies in Pará to usurp land, threaten residents and decimate the rainforest, often with the complicity of the local officials. To read State of Conflict, visit www.greenpeaceusa.org/reports/more-reports?campaign_id=512724

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CONTACT: Nancy Hwa, media officer for Greenpeace in the U.S., (202) 413-8521 (cell)

Tica Minami, media officer for Greenpeace Amazon Campaign: +55 92 9995 2070