25 May 2011

Amazon activist killed in Brazil

2:47 pm on 25 May 2011

An Amazon rainforest activist and his wife have been shot dead in northern Brazil.

The killing comes as the country's Congress debates a divisive land bill that opponents say will accelerate deforestation.

Police say Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva, a rubber tapper and leading forest conservationist, and his wife Maria do Espirito Santo were ambushed and killed in the Amazon state of Para.

It was not immediately clear who shot the couple, but Mr Da Silva had warned of death threats against him by loggers and cattle ranchers.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff has ordered a federal police investigation into the murders.

Both victims were active in the same organization of forest workers that was founded by legendary conservationist Chico Mendes, who was assassinated by ranchers in 1988.

Mr da Silva worked in defence of forest dwellers who make a living by extracting renewable resources such as nuts, rubber and fruits.