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River blockade to protest Amazon destruction

River blockade to protest Amazon destruction

Local communities block the transport of timber and demand creation of Extractive Reserve

Porto de Moz, Brazil, 19 September 2002 ¯ Greenpeace today joined close to 600 traditional Amazon rainforest communities in blocking the Jaraucu River to protest against forest destruction and demand the creation of an Extractive Reserve (1). Protesters unfurled a 17-meter banner, which read: “Stop destruction”. Boats closed off the 100-meter wide Jaraucu River—the main channel for the transport of illegal timber in the region.

Porto de Moz, where the peaceful protest is taking place, is a small town at the mouth of the Xingu and Amazon Rivers, in the north of the Middle Land, Para. It is the home of about 125 communities with 15 thousand inhabitants living in rural and forest areas. The communities aim to create the Verde Para Sempre (Forever Green) Extractive Reserve (2), which would help stop forest destruction and promote the sustainable use of natural resources in the region. The proposed area has 1.3 million hectares, equivalent to almost half of Belgium.

Greenpeace, Pastoral Land Commission and other organisations (3) joined the protest to support the communities’ fight to protect the land frequently invaded by loggers. The protest comes three months short of the anniversary of the death of Chico Mendes, a well know Brazilian activist who died trying to protect the forest from destruction. Protesters were inspired by Mendes’ model of protests known as empates or physical blockades of forest areas. The empates were widely used in the 1980’s and today’s blockade at Porto de Moz is the first for nearly twenty years.

The Porto de Moz region is known for land squatting and illegalities involving log companies. Farmers and loggers easily invade forest areas, open illegal roads and threaten the traditional local people, who depend on the forests for their survival. Industrial exploitation on a large scale started in 1990 with the depletion of wood stocks from traditional production centres in the East of Para after years of intensive and predatory logging. Today, many forest areas have been exhaustively exploited and, in many cases, converted into pastures. The Brazilian Amazon has lost 15% of its forest cover in the last 30 years.

“Loggers and farmers are invading our traditional land and destroying our forest and the future of our kids. They need to get out and return the forest to the real owners, the people of Verde Para Sempre,” said Claudio Wilson Barbosa, one of the community leaders.

The proposal of creating the Verde Para Sempre Reserve started in 1999, in Porto de Moz, when a Working Group was formed to discuss sustainable development and use of natural resources in the region. Local loggers, farmers and politicians are fighting against the model because of economic and political interests. They allege that Extractive Reserves do not allow their vision of economic development for the region. Some of them use violence to stop the process. However, it is the Brazilian Government’s responsibility to create the Reserve to protect the people and the environment of this region.

“We are here to support the communities’ fight to protect their land from the invasion by loggers”, said Marcelo Marquesini, Greenpeace Amazon Campaigner. “Greenpeace believes that Extractive Reserves are one of the ways to ensure the sustainable use of forests resources and that the traditional communities are the first ones interested in protecting their forest land and environment, on which they depend to survive. The Brazilian Government now holds the responsibility to create the Verde Para Sempre Extractive Reserve, which would stop forest destruction in Porto de Moz.”

During the protest, Greenpeace launched a map of the disputed area in Porto de Moz . The map, a result of more than five years of research, shows illegal logging, land squatting and forest areas controlled by logging companies. National and international corporations such as Curuatinga, DLH Nordisk, Eidai, Marajó Island Business, Madenorte, Porbrás and Rancho da Cabocla are directly or indirectly involved with operations in Porto de Moz region. Greenpeace and the traditional communities call on these companies to return the forest back to the people of Porto de Moz. Greenpeace also calls on the customers of these companies to stop buying timber from the region until the reserve is created.

To view a map of the disputed area and further information visit: { HYPERLINK }

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