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Greenpeace In Confrontations Over Amazon Logging

MONITOR Wire Services

U.S. Invokes Obscure 19th Century Law To Hassle Greenpeace
Greenpeace action against Amazon logging Hundreds of angry loggers threatened forest activists after members of Greenpeace uncovered illegal timber operations in the Amazon and alerted Brazillian authorities, the environmentalist group says.

Alerted by ribeirinhos (traditional riverbank settlers) in the northern state of Para after loggers attempted to cut trees on their community land, Greenpeace found a large-scale illegal logging operation that included at least 120 miles of access roads. On a barge with over 200,000 cubic feet of logs, activists painted "CRIME" and marked the area with yellow tape as a "Forest Crime" scene. IBAMA, Brazil's equivalent to the EPA, brought logging in the area to a halt, according to a Greenpeace release.

Loggers were incited to violence by a local radio station, saying they were "cowards" if they didn't chase Greenpeace out. The radio station is owned by the mayor of this small town, who also controls the largest logging operation in the region, and who offered free fuel and T-shirts to those who joined. The loggers were further incited by an inflammatory speech by Federal Deputy Nicias Ribeiro, who accused the loggers of "having no balls" unless they forced Greenpeace from the area, the environmental group says.

Three hundred loggers, in 17 boats and 2 large barges, surrounded the Greenpeace vessel MV Arctic Sunrise on the morning of Nov. 23. After tense negotiations, Greenpeace allowed seven representatives of the logging industry to board their vessel. Local forest activists were also threatened with attacks that sent them fleeing for church sanctuary.

It was not the first threat of violence in the area. According to Greenpeace, Inspectors working along the Transamazonian highway were trapped in their hotel last week by armed loggers, as were IBAMA officers along with Federal Police held hostage.

"[The Brazillian state of] Para continues to lead the pack in lawlessness in the Amazon" said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon Campaign Coordinator. "Rather than comply with the laws of Brazil, the loggers are aggressively demanding that the government withdraws and leaves them to continue to destroy the Amazon with impunity."

Greenpeace says the illegal logging was in an area controlled by a man who supplies timber to companies such as Eidai do Brasil Madeiras S/A, which sells lumber products to the U.S, Japan and in the European Union. Locals told Greenpeace that the illegally cut trees would have been "laundered" through approved forest management plans. The recently released Greenpeace report "State of Conflict" noted that all government-approved Forest Management Plans in the region are based on false or insufficient land title documentation. Most of these plans are used to launder illegally cut wood outside of the boundaries of the plans themselves, the report says.

Greenpeace is also fighting illegal Amazon logging in the U.S, where the group has been indicted by a U.S. Attorney using an obscure conspiracy charge.

Last month a coast guard ship carrying over 20 officials from various government agencies met another Greenpeace ship as it prepared to drop anchor near the port of Miami in Florida. Marcos Daniel Jimenez, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, had obtained an indictment against Greenpeace for an April, 2002 action, where two activists boarded a cargo ship carrying mahogany to Miami. The pair erected a banner that read, "President Bush, Stop Illegal Logging."

According to the group, despite a 2002 speech in which Bush committed Washington to help developing nations combat illegal logging, the United States continued to receive shipments of Brazilian mahogany even after an export moratorium was imposed.

The indictment used an obscure 1872 law prohibiting "sailor-mongering," aimed at preventing boarding-house owners from luring sailors to their establishments with alcohol and prostitutes, to charge Greenpeace "with boarding a vessel before its arrival in port and the conspiracy to do so." Activists called the use of conspiracy law chilling and politically motivated, noting that Jimenez was appointed to U.S. Attorney after serving on the Bush legal team during the Y2000 Florida election dispute, and his brother is a key aide to Governor Jeb Bush.

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Albion Monitor November 25, 2003 (

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