[social_buttons]Thousands of people rioted on Sunday in Paragominas, Brazil, protesting the government’s crackdown on illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest. The protesters burned vehicles, set the offices of the environmental agency Ibama on fire, and stole 14 trucks carrying 400 cubic meters of logs seized from illegal logging activities in the Amazon.
The rioters chased government officials into a hotel and attempted to smash their way in with a tractor, but were forced back by the use of tear gas. Nobody was injured in the attack.
Brazil’s Environment Minister, Carlos Minc, has asked for troops from Brazil’s National Security Force to secure the area and quell the rioting. He said the government would not back down from their efforts to enforce rules directed towards preventing the illegal logging destroying substantial portions of the world’s largest rain forest.
“We will intensify our actions and punish those responsible. We won’t be intimidated” – Carlos Minc
The Brazilian government launched a deforestation program earlier this year, named the “Arc of Fire”, in an attempt to reverse the severe rate of deforestation caused by illegal logging in recent years, and the backlash has been intense.
Riots broke out in February near the city of Tailandia over illegal timber seized from other protected areas, causing the environmental officers to flee the area.
Logging is the main source of income for the residents of these areas, and Ibama official Marco Antonio Vidal said that some of the protesters were logging truck drivers and owners of wood companies. Many sawmills have been closed, and residents are angry at the loss of income due to the deforestation initiative.
In an interview with the Guardian earlier this year, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Brazil’s minister for strategic affairs, said that Brazil needed “a form of environmental protection which is less and less the result of a police operation and more and more the consequence of a working model of economic and social organisation. What has happened in some parts of the rich world is that concern about the tropical rainforest has become… a form of escapism.”