Amazon's 'Guardian of the Forest' shot dead by illegal loggers


Less than two months later, and he is dead - killed by illegal loggers amid increased invasions onto indigenous reservations in Brazil. Guajajara was killed when he and another forest protector were ambushed by a group of illegal loggers inside the Araribóia reservation in the northeastern state of Maranhão. Unlawful loggers reportedly shotted him, whereas he was on a hunt in Maranhao, a state in northern Brazil that spans a part of the Amazon rainforest. Laercio was shot in the back but managed to escape.

Since taking office in January, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of harming the Amazon and indigenous tribes in order to benefit his supporters in the logging, mining and farming industries.

The work carried out by Paulino and the other members of the group is one of vigilance to maintain the preservation of indigenous land, which by law can not be invaded or exploited without the consent of the indigenous people themselves. "The recurring speeches by the president of the republic against the demarcation and regularization of territories, followed by a prejudiced regional environment against indigenous peoples, have been the main vector for invasions and violence against indigenous peoples in Brazil", said the early November note released by the council, known by its Portuguese acronym as CIMI.

Federal Justice Minister Sergio Moro deplored the killing and vowed a thorough investigation in a Twitter post.

The group said the right-wing president's "assault on the country's environmental agencies is putting the rainforest and the people who live there at much greater risk".

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"Maranhao state understood how the urgency of the situation in view of the federal government's failure to act, nearly in connivance with the attackers by encouraging the invasion of reservations", said national indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara.

Sonia Guajajara, head of APIB, the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, said: "It's time to stop this institutionalised genocide!"

Guajajara, head of the pan-indigenous organization APIB, which represents many of Brazil's 900,000 native people, spoke to Reuters from Europe where she is meeting authorities to explain growing threats to Brazil's tribes and the forests they inhabit.

In an interview with Reuters in September, Paulino Guajajara told the news agency that though protecting the forest is risky, he and his people must continue the work. With some 20,000 people, they are one of Brazil's largest indigenous groups. "We are here fighting", he said then.

"We are protecting our land and the life on it, the animals, the birds, even the Awa who are here too", added Paulino Guajajara.