Illegal Loggers Murder Indigenous Forest Guardian in Brazilian Amazon

Maranhão state, Brazil

On the morning of November 1, a group of illegal loggers in the Araribóia indigenous territory ambushed members of the Guajajara people’s Forest Guardians, a volunteer land and environmental monitoring force, leaving one Guardian dead and another gravely wounded.

The loggers killed forest defender Paulo Paulino Guajajara in a shot to the face, while they gravely wounded the Guardian leader Laércio Guajajara. One logger is also missing, according to the Maranhão State Secretariat of Human Rights.

The murder and ambush take place amidst growing repression against Indigenous defenders and environmental advocates throughout President Jair Bolsonarao’s Brazil, the Amazon Basin and Latin America.

Accompanied by police, Brazil’s indigenous agency FUNAI has sent a group of officials to the region, according to a press release from Amazon Watch. More information will be available in the coming hours.

“The 4,130 sq km (1,595 sq miles) Araribóia indigenous reserve is home to an estimated 5,300 indigenous Brazilians of the Guajajara tribe and the Awá, an isolated group described as the “world’s most endangered tribe. It concentrates much of the last remaining Amazon rainforest in Maranhão state,” the UK Guardian wrote.

“It makes me so mad to see this [forest destruction],” Paulino told Survival International earlier this year, according to the Guardian. “These people think they can come here, into our home, and help themselves to our forest? No. We won’t allow it. We don’t break into their houses and rob them, do we? My blood is boiling. I’m so angry.”

Sônia Guajajara, of the Guajajara People and leader of the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB) said: “The Araribóia territory loses another Forest Guardian for defending our territory. Paulinho Guajajajra was killed today in an ambush by loggers. It’s time to stop this institutionalized genocide! Stop authorizing the bloodshed of our people!”

Guajajara and seven other indigenous leaders are currently traveling across Europe to denounce the grave human rights crisis facing Brazil’s native peoples under President Jair Bolsonaro. Entitled “Indigenous Blood: Not A Single Drop More,” their campaign is calling on European authorities and business leaders to “respond to mounting violence and environmental devastation in the Amazon and across the country.”

“While it is the constitutional duty of the Brazilian government to protect indigenous territories and ensure the safety of their peoples, what we are witnessing today is genocidal violence abetted by the criminal Bolsonaro regime,” said Amazon Watch Program Director Christian Poirier. “Bolsonaro has launched an open attack upon indigenous rights and lands, abandoning native peoples to defend their territories against invasions, illegal logging, mining, and land grabbing. This regime has indigenous blood on its hands.”

A recent report by Brazil’s Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) exposed a dramatic rise in violence against native communities and invasions of indigenous territories. During the first nine months of Bolsonaro’s tenure there were 160 reported cases of land invasions, a doubling of last year’s numbers.

Carlos Travassos, a former director of FUNAI’s Department of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples and an advisor to the Guajajara Forest Guardians, recently told the National Geographic that the situation was critical.

The Guardians have been left on their own to fend off loggers, death threats, and, most recently, brush fires, according to Travassos. No support has been forthcoming from the federal agencies responsible for law enforcement. “There’s a complete absence of control in the territory that could encourage the exploitation of timber,” he said.

“The Brazilian government must immediately and thoroughly investigate this crime and its perpetrators in the local logging mafia,” said Poirier. “This attack, and the continuing assault on indigenous peoples and their territories in Brazil, demand urgent and decisive action. APIB’s delegation throughout Europe is an essential effort to stem the very violence we see exploding in indigenous lands by pressuring its global corporate enablers and joining forces with international allies in their battle for life and the future of the Amazon.”

To hear Leila Salazar-Lopez, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, discuss the murder of Paulo Paulino on CNN, watch this video:

The Brasil Solidarity Network will hold an action honoring the life of Paulo Paulino and all defenders on Friday, November 15, 2019 at 9 am to 11:30 am at 300 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94104-1901.

“The network invites all of you to join us for our November action as we honor and lift up the life of recently slain Guardian of the Forest, Paulo Paulino Guajajara.  Paulo was murdered on Friday while he was in the jungle gathering water.  We send our love and prayers to all the land defenders, water protectors, sky protectors and guardians of life who put their lives on the line every day for what they know is the truth and right,” according to an announcement from the network on Facebook:…

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher