Trucks filled with timber from illegal logging operations in the Amazon have been stopped in their tracks by an indigenous village protesting the continued exploitation of their lands.
With little or no support from the local or federal authorities, the Pukobjê-Gavião people in Maranhão state, Brazil, are refusing to stand aside as their forests are destroyed by illegal loggers.
The Pukobjê-Gavião have blocked four trucks and a tractor filled with fresh timber from leaving their lands.
Frederico Pereira Guajajara, a member of the neighboring Indigenous Land “Arariboia”, says he was assaulted as he began filming the Pukobjê-Gavião protests as the trucks were trying to leave their land.
“Loggers beat me on my head, pushed me, broke my phone and wanted to throw me in the fire, but did not because the other Indians started to leave,” he said.The Federal Police were informed of the confrontation by the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) and the Federal Public Ministry.
The police arrived to investigate and seized the logger’s equipment but left the land empty-handed just hours later. A group of 100 people – made up of loggers, according to media reports – barricaded the access road to the territory with burning tires, preventing the police from leaving the indigenous land with the seized machinery.
According to Augusto Gavião – a leader from a village of the same name – the police have since left the area, without giving any notice.
“We are not able to go to the city, because it is dangerous for us. We are being threatened by loggers, they call here and say they will kill us,” Gavião said.
“The situation is not resolved. We are waiting for Funai (the Brazilian National Indian Foundation) to contact us again, this time with the prosecutors and police. The trucks will have to be removed from here.”
The public prosecutor from the municipality of Imperatriz, Douglas Fernandes, said they are demanding the Federal Police, Funai and Ibama resolve the case. He said the illegal logging of indigenous lands is common practice in the region.
In May 2012, Greenpeace denounced the destructive logging practices in the region – driven by the production of pig iron – the raw material of steel.
An investigative report about the impacts of the pig iron industry was released showing the degrading conditions in this production chain, including invasion of protected areas for illegal logging and charcoal used in the work by slave labour.
Two months after the allegations, the pig iron industry of Maranhão signed a public commitment for zero deforestation in its supply chain. Under the agreement, producers have two years to implement a monitoring system to ensure that none of their suppliers produce coal with wood from native forests or deforestation to plant eucalyptus trees that are turned into charcoal.
Lack of governance and the new Forest Code has made a case for a Zero Deforestation Law in Brazil.
In March, a petition for a zero deforestation law in Brazil was launched.
Just a few months later, over 600,000 people have signed onto the citizen’s initiative.
According to Brazil’s laws, if 1.4 million people support the Zero Deforestation initiative, it could be presented to the Brazilian Congress and become law. Learn more about the Zero Deforestation Law and support Brazil’s call to end Amazon destruction.