Environmental Official Shot Dead in Brazil as Attacks on Land Defenders Rise in Latin America

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Environmental Official Shot Dead in Brazil as Attacks on Land Defenders Rise in Latin America

Latin America remains the most dangerous region in the world for land defenders and environmental activists

A portion of the Amazon rainforest is illegally burned in the Brazilian state of Para.

A portion of the Amazon rainforest is illegally burned in the Brazilian state of Para. (Photo: Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty Images)

An environmental official well-known for his aggressive enforcement of deforestation laws in his city in the Brazilian Amazon was gunned down in front of his family late Thursday, city officials reported Friday.

Two men shot the official, Luiz Araujo, seven times as he drove up to his home, local police told the Associated Press.

"[T]wo men fled on a motorcycle without taking anything, leading to speculation that they were paid assassins," the Los Angeles Times reports

AP notes that Araujo, environmental secretary for the small northern city of Altamara, had reportedly received death threats before.

The killing appears to have been carried out in retaliation for Araujo's staunch defense of the rainforest.

The Los Angeles Times observes that the conflict between industry and environmental regulations as resulted in bloodshed in the past:

Altamira is located the northern Amazonian state of Para, where environmental crime continues to be a major problem, with landowners often employing violence to silence threats to their business. Journalists, activists, and locals who collaborate with environmental authorities have been killed.

"The government of Altimara has lost a dedicated servant and important figure in the fight for better environmental policies in the region," read a statement released by Altamira City Hall, the LA Times reports. "Since 2014, he has performed his duties with brilliance and enormous competence and intelligence. He was admired by all."

Araujo's killing comes only weeks after an assault that hospitalized Goldman-Prize-winning environmental activist Máxima Acuña de Chaupe in Peru. She was attacked on her own land by the security forces of Minera Yanacocha, a subsidiary of Denver-based Newmont Mining, whose gold mine Acuña de Chaupe has long opposed.

And as the murder of Honduran land defender Berta Cáceres earlier this year remains unsolved, violence against Indigenous and environmental activists continues to rise in Latin America as undeveloped land is more and more threatened by industry.

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