Brazilian Amazon Loggers Let Greenpeace Activists Go After 2-Day Siege

Brazilian Amazon nut tree in the center of the controversy Eight Greenpeace activists who were prevented from leaving an Amazon town after having been surrounded by angry loggers and residents while inside the Ibama's (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Renewable Resources) headquarters in Castelo dos Sonhos (Dreams Castle) municipality were finally able to leave town.

They were let to Wednesday night, October 17. The environmentalists group was inside the makeshift government building since Tuesday and complained that they had been made prisoners by the mob.

About 300 loggers and their employees didn't allow that the environmentalists took a scorched nut trunk that they wanted to show in São Paulo and Rio as proof of the Amazon's devastation. The Greenpeace group left town with the help of the military police who left them on their own as soon as they reached the city's boundaries.

The population used trucks to prevent activists from taking the fallen tree trunk with them. The 13-meter-long trunk, was kept in the city and according to City Hall it will be made into a monument. Although Ibama have given Greenpeace the green light to take the tree, the permission ended up being suspended.

The dead Brazil nut tree  was taken out from illegally cleared and burnt public land. The activists were taking it to be part of a public exhibition exposing Amazon destruction and its contribution to global warming.

The town's residents were apparently upset because Greenpeace was allowed to remove the trunk without consulting the city's authorities and getting the community's permission

After the impasse, the Brazilian government gave in to the loggers, and revoked Greenpeace's license to remove, transport and exhibit the valuable and protected Brazil nut tree, which is now in custody of the loggers, to the local town square.

"This is absolutely outrageous," said Marcelo Maquesini, Greenpeace Amazon coordinator, and part of the team trapped at the Ibama offices.

"The Brazilian state cannot even manage to ensure basic constitutional rights such as security and freedom of movement. Rather than standing up to the loggers, the government has given in to the law of the mob."

The exhibition has wide support across Brazil, and the governors of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo had already confirmed their attendance.

By 2006, over one sixth of the Amazon rainforest had been destroyed, equivalent to an area larger than France. Deforestation accounts for one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Brazil's rates of deforestation, mainly from the Amazon, account for three-quarters of its greenhouse gas emissions, and make it the fourth largest climate polluter in the world.

Loggers blocked the Greenpeace team after collecting the tree. The activists managed to escape to the Ibama offices, where the loggers with eight trucks, ten vans and 15 motorbikes surrounded the building.

"It is disgraceful that loggers, many involved in illegal forest destruction, were allowed to stop eight people legally taking one dead tree," continued Maquesini.

"The Brazilian government still has a long way to go until proper governance is brought to the Amazon. If Brazil is to be taken seriously by the international community in regards to climate negotiations, biodiversity or human rights, then they need to be able to enforce basic law and order in the areas where forests are being destroyed."

Greenpeace demands the expedition team be immediately provided with local, state and federal security, in order to be able to return home safely. Greenpeace is also urging the Brazilian government to allow them to take the Brazil nut tree as agreed, so that they can continue with their expedition and highlight the urgent need to stop deforestation, and combat climate change.

Greenpeace, in cooperation with nine other groups, two weeks ago launched a proposal for a national agreement to end Amazon deforestation at an event attended by the Brazilian Minister of Environment and State Governors.

The proposal seeks a broad commitment from the Brazilian government and civil society to create measures to ensure urgent protection for the Amazon rainforest.

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