A cross stands on the spot where U.S.-born nun and activist, Dorothy Stang, was murdered in 2005, inside the PDS Esperanca community, a project in sustainable development that Stang founded, in Anapu, Brazil. Photo: Lunae Parracho / Reuters

By Michael E. Miller
27 August 2015

(Washington Post) – The killers came from the forest, the very same forest Raimundo Santos Rodrigues so loved.

The environmentalist had spent years defending one of the last pristine swathes of the eastern Amazon rain forest from loggers, miners and farmers. But his activism had earned him enemies in Brazil’s northern state of Maranhão.

And on Tuesday afternoon, those enemies pounced.

Santos Rodrigues and his wife were riding their motorbike from the market back to the Biological Reserve of Gurupi when two men suddenly emerged from the treeline, witnesses told local media. As the couple crossed a bridge, the gunmen opened fire, hitting both the environmentalist and his wife.

To ensure their objective, the assassins ran up to Santos Rodrigues and stabbed the injured man to death. His wife, Maria da Conceição Chaves Lima, was rushed to the hospital and is expected to live.

Santos Rodrigues had been a “marked” man because of his environmentalism, said a man who spoke to G1 anonymously for fear of also being targeted.

“Loggers hated him because he denounced them,” said a co-worker, also anonymously. “He was very active in the region, defending the community, attending the Union of Rural Workers of Bom Jardim.”

Officials have promised a thorough investigation and are treating the murder as an attack on a public official. Santos Rodrigues was a volunteer with the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, part of the Ministry of the Environment.

“It will be treated with top priority,” said Alexandre Saraiva, a federal police superintendent.

But that promise appears hollow against the bloody reality in Brazil, widely considered the most dangerous country on earth for environmentalists.

Between 2002 and 2013, at least 448 environmentalists were killed in Brazil, according to Global Witness. That equates to roughly half of all the environmentalists murdered worldwide during that period.

According to local watchdog CPT, the grim tally is even worse: More than 1,500 Brazilians have been killed over the past 25 years fighting deforestation, and another 2,000 have received death threats, Men’s Journal reported in 2012. […]

“Magnates buy off local politicians and policemen, and kill anyone who challenges their agricultural practices,” according to Men’s Journal. [more]

Why are Brazil’s environmentalists being murdered?

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