During an ambush over the weekend, a member of an indigenous group in Northern Brazil that works to protect the Amazon rainforest was killed by illegal loggers, who also wounded another member of the group, according to local reports.
Paulino Guajajara was an indigenous warrior who belonged to a group called the “Guardians of the Forest” and was also a member of the Guajarara tribe. He was reportedly shot by illegal loggers while he was on a hunt in Maranhao, a state in northern Brazil that spans part of the Amazon rainforest.
Paulino Guajajara’s death comes as Brazil sees a rise in illegal loggers invading reservations and forest lands since President Jair Bolsonaro was elected. The right-wing leader has repeatedly called for the development of the Amazon region since taking office.
This is also in line with a spike in deforestation in Brazil during the Bolsonaro administration. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reported a record 72,843 fires this year, an 80 percent increase from last year. NASA noted that the fires were large enough that they could be spotted from space.
Sonia Guajajara, a member of the APIB, which is committed to fighting for indigenous peoples’ rights in Brazil, said on Twitter that it’s “time to stop this institutionalized genocide” after Paulino’s death. “Stop authorizing the bloodshed of our people!” she continued.
In an interview with Reuters in September, Paulino Guajajara told the news agency that though protecting the forest is dangerous, he and his people must continue the work.
“I’m scared at times, but we have to lift up our heads and act. We are here fighting,” he said then. “We have to preserve this life for our children’s future,” added Paulino Guajajara.
A recent study said killings of environmental defenders have doubled over the past 15 years to reach levels usually associated with war zones. The study revealed how murders of activists are concentrated in countries with the worst corruption and weakest laws.
At least 1,558 people in 50 countries were killed between 2002 and 2017 while trying to protect their land, water or local wildlife, says the analysis from NGO Global Witness, which calculated the death toll is almost half that of US troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.