Another sobering sign that the Amazon is going back in time to its dark past - another person that stood up to illegal loggers has been murdered this past week. This is now the fifth killed in the past 20 days since the Brazilian lower house of congress approved amnesty for illegal deforestation and abetted a five-old spike in forest destruction.
31 year old Obede Souza was a rural worker living at the Esperança landless settlement in Para state. Unlike the other recent murder victims, he wasn't identified as an environmentalist under threat, but like the others, he was speaking out against illegal loggers.
As amnesty for forest criminals becomes a closer reality, illegal loggers have been emboldened, and illegal logging has always intensified land conflicts in the Amazon. After the first spate of murders, the government identified activists under threat and planned to do more to protect for those in the field. However, this is only a remedial measure, the government needs to address the root cause- broiling forest destruction and illegal activity. To really curb the violence, President Dilma needs to address the new changes in the forest code that have signaled to forest criminals that it's open season on the Amazon.
The latest wave of violence and deforestation in the Amazon along with some of the extreme rhetoric of those trying to weaken the forest code has alerted the Brazilian population. What's at risk is alarming; according to the government's own studies, the new forest code would likely lead to the destruction of a forest area larger than California and grant amnesty to forest crimes that have alraedy destroyed two Californias. A recent public opinion poll in Brazil revealed that a critical mass of Brazilians, 62%, are following the debate closely and 79% of all Brazilians don't want to weaken forest protection. Even more, 95%, don't want to grant amnesty to forest criminals.
According to my Brazilian colleague campaigner Marcio Astrini, “the respondents were very clear that they aren't going to elect those that vote for deforestation in Brazil, and we are going to continue to expose those in congress that voted against forest protection.”