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A nun's brutal death shows lawlessness in Brazil's Amazon

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on September 13, 2019 - Duration: 02:04s

A nun's brutal death shows lawlessness in Brazil's Amazon

Deaths related to land disputes highlight the problem of policing the vast Amazon, where this year loggers, cattle ranchers, and farmers have been accused of triggering a sharp rise in fires and deforestation.

Havovi Cooper has more.

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A nun's brutal death shows lawlessness in Brazil's Amazon

This is the site where Dorothy Stang was murdered in 2005.....in the thick of Brazil's Amazon rainforest.

The 73-year-old American nun was shot six times in the chest, back and head.

A gunman hired by cattle ranchers executed Stang- who had spent her life fighting to preserve the rainforest.

Fourteen years after Stang's murder...her former colleagues who remain in Para state say the area is still lawless and dangerous as ever... (SOUNDBITE) (Portuguese) SISTER OF NOTRE DAME, JANE DWYER, SAYING: "There are people here who have fled from gunmen and from threats, (but) the locals here insist that the forest has to remain standing and they defend it." The nuns who live here have recorded 18 deaths of local farmers in the region since 2015, murdered over land disputes.

But far-right President Jair Bolsonaro says Brazil does not have the resources to police the vast Amazon, where this year loggers, cattle ranchers, and big, industrial farmers have been accused of triggering a sharp rise in wildfires and deforestation.

Antonia Silva, who runs a sustainable development project in the area, says she fears for her future.

(SOUNDBITE) (Portuguese) ESPERANCA SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PROJECT COMMUNITY LEADER, ANTONIA SILVA, AKA "TUNICA," SAYING: "If we didn't hire guards to protect us, what would happen?

Loggers would come in, in a few days there would be ranchers in here, and then what would happen is that I'd end up giving up my land and selling and leaving.

Because I won't stay here alone in the middle of a pack of wolves like those." Wildfires in the Amazon have created a major crisis for Bolsonaro - who has cut funding to the agency charged with protecting the rainforest.

Critics said his election victory emboldened those who support the development of the Amazon to ignore environmental regulations.

Meanwhile those who remain on the frontline of protecting the rainforest say it is a lonely, challenging and increasingly dangerous task.

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