As images of the Amazon burning were shared across social media this week, the world is turning its attention to the battle between indigenous people and the powerful interests who are seeking to take their land for financial gain. It is important to note that many of the images shared in the wake of the recent fires were actually falsely attributed, however, there is a very real crisis taking place in the Amazon, and in other tropical regions throughout the world.
Last month, a group of gold miners invaded a remote Amazonian village that was inhabited by the Waiãpi tribe and killed their leader, sending the rest of the tribe to flee in terror. Sadly, this is no isolated incident. The indigenous people and environmental activists on the front lines of his battle face life-threatening dangers from the powerful interests who want to develop on their land.
According to the annual report from international NGO Global Witness, released last month, at least 164 environmentalists were killed under suspicious circumstances while engaging in activism against corporations and governments.
The report tracked murders and “enforced disappearances” that took place all over the world in the past year, and it was also noted that the numbers listed may not be a full representation of the violence faced by activists.
“Countless more were silenced through violent attacks, arrests, death threats or lawsuits,” the report stated.
The study showed that the Philippines is the most dangerous place in the world for environmental activists, followed closely by Columbia, India and then Brazil.
Sadly, there is rarely ever any justice for the victims of these murders, as the violence is often sanctioned or directly carried out by the government. Environmental activists are increasingly being labeled as terrorists, which allows governments to treat them as enemy combatants without any consequences or accountability.
Joel Raymundo, of the Guatemalan Peaceful Resistance of Ixquisis told Global Witness that they can’t go to the police about the threats that they receive from corporations, because the police are a threat as well.
“We are afraid of going to the police to report the threats we are receiving because we know that there are arrest warrants against us and the police can capture us if they want,” Raymundo said.
This attitude is even seen in the United States and the U.K where stiff jail sentences are being introduced for those involved with protests relating to the environment.
8 environmentalists are on trial in 🇮🇷 #Iran, accused of spying. But the #UN, #EU and many others say the charges are bogus. If there is #AnyHopeForNature, we need people like them protecting the #planet.
Read more: https://t.co/pNB2Rbs7QC pic.twitter.com/jZHq0eXnXK
— Global Witness (@Global_Witness) August 21, 2019
Alice Harrison of Global Witness said that there has been a slight decrease in murders from last year, but she believes that this doesn’t tell the whole story.
“Deaths were down last year, but violence and widespread criminalization of people defending their land and our environment were still rife around the world. The drop in killings masks another gruesome reality. Our partners in Brazil and many other countries have noted a spike in other forms of non-lethal attacks against defenders — often attacks so brutal they’re just shy of murder,” Harrison told HuffPost.
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Brazil has topped the list in previous years, but once again, the shift in numbers doesn’t tell the whole story. As Truth Theory reported last month, the Amazon is facing deforestation at an unprecedented rate. It seems that the official murder numbers in Brazil only appear to be lower because the tactics have changed.
Instead of killing individual activists, ranchers in the country have resorted to a scorched earth strategy of burning down the forest to make room for their grazing fields, which could have more disastrous effects and lead to more deaths in the long-term.
IMAGE FEATURED: ammentorp