Greenpeace Activists Trapped By Loggers in the Amazon

A mob of 300 loggers trapped eight Greenpeace activists in an office of the Brazilian environmental protection agency (Ibama) in the town of Castelo dos Sonhos, in the western part of Pará state, in the Amazon. The loggers demanded Greenpeace hand over a dead Brazil nut tree collected yesterday- with government permission- from illegally cleared and burnt public land, to be part of a public exhibition exposing Amazon destruction and its contribution to global warming. Today, the Brazilian government gave in to the loggers, and revoked Greenpeace’s license to remove, transport and exhibit the valuable and protected Brazil nut tree, which is now in custody of the loggers, to the local town square. Many loggers remain outside the offices where the Greenpeace expedition team escaped to yesterday afternoon.

"This is absolutely outrageous," said Marcelo Maquesini, Greenpeace Amazon coordinator, and part of the team trapped at the Ibama offices. "The Brazilian state cannot even manage to ensure basic constitutional rights such as security and freedom of movement. Rather than standing up to the loggers, the government has given in to the law of the mob."

The exhibition has wide support across Brazil, and the governors of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo had already confirmed their attendance. By 2006, over one sixth of the Amazon rainforest had been destroyed, equivalent to an area larger than France. Deforestation accounts for one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil's rates of deforestation, mainly from the Amazon, account for three-quarters of its greenhouse gas emissions, and make it the fourth largest climate polluter in the world.

Loggers blocked the Greenpeace team after collecting the tree. The activists managed to escape to the Ibama offices, where 300 loggers with eight trucks, ten vans and 15 motorbikes surrounded the building.

"It is disgraceful that loggers, many involved in illegal forest destruction, were allowed to stop eight people legally taking one dead tree," continued Maquesini. "The Brazilian government still has a long way to go until proper governance is brought to the Amazon. If Brazil is to be taken seriously by the international community in regards to climate negotiations, biodiversity or human rights, then they need to be able to enforce basic law and order in the areas where forests are being destroyed."

Greenpeace demands the expedition team be immediately provided with local, state and federal security, in order to be able to return home safely. Greenpeace is also urging the Brazilian government to allow them to take the Brazil nut tree as agreed, so that they can continue with their expedition and highlight the urgent need to stop deforestation, and combat climate change.

Greenpeace, in cooperation with nine other groups, two weeks ago launched a proposal for a national agreement to end Amazon deforestation at an event attended by the Brazilian Minister of Environment and State Governors. The proposal seeks a broad commitment from the Brazilian government and civil society to create measures to ensure urgent protection for the Amazon rainforest.

VVPR info: steve.smith@wdc.greenpeace.org

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