José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva speaking at TEDx Amazon in 2010
Brazilian authorities have fingered three men for the killing of environmental activist, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva, and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva, in May. The grisly murders received international attention, since José da Silva was a well known activist against illegal logging in Pará, a state in Brazil that is rife with deforestation and violence.
According to officials, Jose Moreira ordered the assassination of the couple because they had spoken out against Moreira evicting three families from his land. Allegedly Moreira hired his brother, Lindon Johnson, and another man, Alberto Lopes do Nascimento, to gun down the activist couple. After being shot dead the two men reportedly cut off the ears of the couple to prove to Moreira that they had been killed, a common practice in Brazilian assassinations.
José da Silva had received countless death threats for over a decade and had publicly warned that he could be killed at any time, however he was refused protection by Brazilian officials.
“I will protect the forest at all costs. That is why I could get a bullet in my head at any moment…because I denounce the loggers and charcoal producers, and that is why they think I cannot exist,” da Silva said in a TED Talks last November, adding “but my fear does not silence me. As long as I have the strength to walk I will denounce all of those who damage the forest.”
Jose da Silva’s sister, Claudelice, told the Globo: “There were a lot of people who wanted them dead because they consistently denounced environmental crimes. Many ranchers, farmers and loggers wanted my brother and his wife to stop bothering them with their denunciations against deforestation and land grabbing.”
Police are now asking a judge to order arrest warrants for the alleged murderers.
The Silvas worked as a community leaders in an Amazon reserve that sold sustainably harvested forest products.
(05/24/2011) José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva, were gunned down last night in an ambush near their home in the Brazilian state of Pará. Da Silva was known as a community leader and an outspoken critic of deforestation in the region. Police believe the da Silvas were killed by hired assassins because both victims had an ear cut off, which is a common token for hired gunmen to prove their victims had been slain, according to local police investigator, Marcos Augusto Cruz, who spoke to Al Jazeera. Suspicion immediately fell on illegal loggers linked to the charcoal trade that supplies pig iron smelters in the region.
(06/16/2011) A rural worker who confronted illegal loggers operating in the Brazilian state of Pará was found murdered near his home, reports the Associated Press. Murdered on the Esperanca landless settlement, his death is likely related to ongoing conflicts between loggers and farmers in the Esperanca community. The victim, Obede Souza, is the fifth person to be murdered this month after standing up to illegal loggers.
(06/10/2011) Authorities in Brazil have sent an elite police force consisting of 60 officers to offer protection to environmental activists in the Amazon after a series of killings, reports the Associated Press. The move comes 10 days after Brazil’s Vice President Michel Temer announced the creation of a working group on Amazon violence following the assassinations of three activists in the region in late May. The Brazilian Amazon is no stranger to systemic violence against environmental activists, yet the response from the federal government in the past two weeks is the most significant to date.