Listen: The Deadly Fight To Protect Brazil's Amazon
"For Brazilians working to preserve the Amazon rainforest how far they'd go to combat climate change is a serious question deforestation is up sharply in part because of the surge in fires this year many of those fires are set by criminal groups stealing land as NPR's Philip Reeve's reports Brazil protecting the forest often falls too courageous individuals willing to risk their lives people of the rainforest holding a meeting in women and children and shorts and flip flops a sitting inside a wooden pavilion clearing among the trees they're here to talk about routine forest stuff jumbles about the timetable of the ferry on the nearby they discussed who's going to use the communal tractor the relaxed mood is deceptive. Shuo proposer as president of the residents association that called this meeting ethical when you get more details bother Barbosa people here actually deeply worried we're in the Amazon's western part in the Brazilian state of actually people around here are mostly subsistence farmers and rubber tappers who rely on the forest for their livelihoods words just reached them that their neighbors a few miles away are illegally setting fires to clear land for cattle a major issue for that's disturbing setback especially for activists who risked their lives defending forest but Boza is fifty five he's been an environmental activist here all his adult life years ago one of his fellow activists was shot dead by legal ranches now as forestation surges bubble believes people protecting the forest face a growing threat he's not alone I think it's become significantly more date interest. Daniel Wilkinson directs the Environmental Rights Program at Human Rights Watch Human Rights Watch has been investigating the deadly tactics the organizations in the Amazon News against those who stand in their way Brazil's far-right President Shaya boatswain auto wants to exploit the forests comic potential and is often accused of cheering on these criminal groups Wilkinson says the problem started long before Bolsonaro took office but ads what's new is that Brazil has a president who is openly hostile to the Brazilians who are trying to protect your forest including the government's own Inbar agencies killings in conflicts over Amazon Land and resources a common in Brazil Brazil's pastoral Van Commission which tracks these says the been more than three hundred in the last decade only fourteen cases went to trial says Wilkinson when people get killed in this part of the Amazon lers are almost never brought to justice the police blamed the fact that communities where killings happen often are remote but in fact even when killings happened in town they released any serious investigation these criminal groups often have connections in high places and plenty of weapons activists and also environment enforcement officials who dared to challenge them can expect their lives to be turned upside down the Soda Community How just ask Yoshiko logo ratty Saddam Lobos thirty seven and an indigenous Brazilian he lives deep in the rainforest inefficient community in the state of Para last logo launched a campaign to stop illegal loggers and miners invading his communities land he put handmade signs on trees pointing out their lands protected by law and telling landgrabbers to keep out it wasn't long before we started getting death threats his mind boss Katha Pinta Mata logos some loggers and miners decided to kill him and set up an ambush he escaped because he received a last minute tip off the Lobos now enrolled in a zillion government protection program for rights activists some the threat although he says it only provides limited security mostly in Kohl's and police escorts when he travels in the same program is this man never dodger decision running against I wouldn't wish this life on anyone there's a lot of suffering that's Danielle Pereira an environmental activists also he and his wife took on logos and a work one day to find to freshly dug graves outside that they spent the last six months at a secret address in Brazil's capital Acilia and have no idea when they return to the forest even in the big city they don't feel safe as a spur Sochi a residential some groups people who are against US belong to organized groups they are rich criminals who have the money to go wherever they like the emotional toll of living at constant risk is huge says Seo logo is squeaky he says he will it's public places and has stopped hanging out with Francis you're aware that you could be killed at any moment he says we don't know who to trust Lobos considered giving up his campaign to protect the forest on which is community depends question do I do. He's decided to carry on because he says in his heart he knows is sue you prefer to name. York was doing the right thing."