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Cablegate: Brazilian Police Arrest Suspect in Environmentalist's

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS RIO DE JANEIRO 000353

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/EPSC - ALLEN
STATE PASS EPA FOR CAM HILL-MACON AND S.HOFFMAN
STATE FOR OES/PCI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SENV TBIO TSPA SOCI BR TIP
SUBJECT: Brazilian Police Arrest Suspect in Environmentalist's
Death

Ref: Rio de Janeiro 00308

1. Brazil's Federal Police arrested hunter Leonardo de
Carvalho Marques, who shot environmentalist Dionisio Julio
Ribeiro Junior in the head with a shotgun on February 23 in
the Tingua Natural Reserve in Nova Iguacu. Ribeiro Junior
had spent fifteen years of his life defending the Reserve
from illegal wildlife trade and illegal exploitation of palm
trees and other plants. Leonardo confessed to the crime,
but did not convince public security authorities that he
acted alone. Environmentalists in the area claim that the
crime was planned deliberately by a group of hunters, palm
cutters, animal traders, and perhaps some corrupt employees
of the Brazilian Environmental Agency (IBAMA). Police
located Leonardo through an anonymous tip ("Disque-
Denuncia", a police hotline to denounce crimes).

2. Federal Police and public security authorities said the
police would continue investigating the case because they
believe Leonardo may have been a hired hit man. Leonardo
said he killed Ribeiro Junior because the environmentalist
was constantly reporting the illegal activities of hunters
in the Tingua Reserve to IBAMA. The environmentalist's
various accusations helped the police to confiscate several
guns in recent years, including five shotguns belonging to
Leonardo.

3. According to the police, Leonardo was raised in the
Tingua Reserve area. Besides being a hunter since the age
of seventeen, Leonardo also helped in illegal palm tree
cutting to extract the hearts of palm in the region. Police
suspect that he also sold tropical birds and animals to
local restaurants. Federal Police received several
complaints about these allegations and will start an
investigation.

4. Leonard also confessed to killing a woman and burying
her body in the Reserve. He told the police he caught the
woman trying to break into his house and killed her. The
police do not believe this and will pursue an investigation
into this crime as well.

5. The GOB has created a task force consisting of members
of IBAMA, Federal and Civil Police and State Military Police
to investigate the main complaints made by Ribeiro Junior:
illegal palm cutting to extract the hearts of palm, hunting
of tropical birds and animals, illegal exploitation of sand
(for construction work), and irregular land occupation of
the protected area. They intend to start working this week.
The Brazilian Environmental Ministry will contribute Reais
60,000 (approximately USD 23,000) to fund the work.

6. Two representatives of Ribeiro Junior's NGO "Grupo de
Defesa da Natureza" (Nature Defense Group) are in Brasilia
to speak to the Ministry of Justice and the Congress, to
demand permanent occupation of the Tingua Reserve by
appropriate governmental forces. They agree that the GOB
task force will help, but they claim only a continuous
police presence will guarantee protection of the
environmentalists in that region and the delicate ecosystem
in the Reserve.

7. COMMENT: An official from NGO Justica Global told us
that the main problem IBAMA has been facing for some time is
the lack of personnel to inspect protected areas. IBAMA is
the government organism responsible for this oversight and
estimates that Brazil has one inspector for every 37,000
hectares of protected area. Prior to Ribeiro Junior's
assassination, the 27,000-hectare Tingua Biological Reserve
had four inspectors. In the wake of Ribeiro Junior's
murder, the Federal Government via IBAMA announced that
seven more environmental agents will be assigned to the
State of Rio de Janeiro, but did not indicate if any would
be assigned to the Reserve.

ATKINS

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