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Pioneering Amazon Tribe Asks Brazilian Police To Help Enforce Logging Moratorium

Steve Zwick

Leaders of the Paiter Surui have asked Brazilian authorities for police support in enforcing a logging moratorium after loggers ratcheted up efforts to illegally harvest timber from the territory.  Leaders say decisive police action now will strengthen the moratorium and deter illegal logging in the future.

Leaders of the Paiter Surui have asked Brazilian authorities for police support in enforcing a logging moratorium after loggers ratcheted up efforts to illegally harvest timber from the territory. Leaders say decisive police action now will strengthen the moratorium and deter illegal logging in the future.

20 May 2012 | The Paiter Surui have asked the National Indian Foundation (Fundaçí£o Nacional do índio, “FUNAI”) and federal police to help them enforce a self-imposed logging moratorium after loggers ratcheted up threats against members of the tribe who tried to halt the illegal removal of timber from the territory.

The moratorium is a cornerstone of the groundbreaking Surui Forest Carbon Project (SFCP), which is the first-ever indigenous “REDD” project designed to provide carbon income to tribes who save endangered rainforest.   Under terms governing the project, the tribe has agreed to protect its forest from illegal loggers in exchange for carbon credits.   The project’s methodology was validated last month under two leading carbon standards, but its ultimate success will hinge on how well the tribe enforces its moratorium.

Loggers, however, see such projects as a threat to supplies of cheap timber and have long employed a dual strategy of threatening indigenous leaders who oppose logging – while at the same time offering bribes to those who grant illegal access to wood, minerals, and other resources.

Surui leaders say loggers have increased their use of both tactics since the carbon project was announced.   Loggers recently threatened key members of the tribe who support the moratorium, and offered firearms to members of a small minority within the tribe who oppose it.

“In these last few months, members of the Surui community have encountered severe pressure from illegal loggers operating around our territory, causing internal and external conflicts, including co-opting some of our community members who have even been even armed by those who want to destroy our way of life,” the tribe said Friday in a statement signed by nine leading Brazilian NGOs, as well as US NGO Forest Trends (publisher of Ecosystem Marketplace) and human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger.

“Some Paiter Surui leaders, including a municipal elected official, have been threatened – forcing them to hide within their own villages,” the statement said.

Tribes across the Amazon have expressed an interest in following the SFCP model, and Surui leaders see the current offensive by loggers as an effort to prevent other tribes from implementing similar programs. By calling in police, the tribe hopes to send a clear signal that the business of illegal logging has fundamentally changed.

“It is important to note that during this critical and urgent situation, the community, and its leadership including Chief Almir Surui, have been working together with the Brazilian government Indian Agency FUNAI to find the solutions to confront these pressures,” the statement said. “In spite of this a more comprehensive action by the government is necessary to ensure that the rule of law is brought back to the region so that the Paiter Surui can continue to work towards implementing definitive solutions to the challenges faced.”

Here is a complete list of signatories:

  • Associaçí£o de Defesa Etnoambiental (Kanindé)
  • Equipe de Conservaçí£o da Amazí´nia (ECAM)
  • Forest Trends
  • Fundo Amazonas Sustentí¡vel – FAS
  • Fundo Brasileiro para a Biodiversidade – FUNBIO
  • Grupo de Trabalho Amazí´nico – GTA
  • Instituto de Conservaçí£o e Desenvolvimento Sustentí¡vel do Amazonas (Idesam)
  • Instituto Internacional de Educaçí£o no Brasil (IEB)
  • Instituto Socioambiental (ISA)
  • Instituto de Manejo e Certificaçí£o Florestal e Agrí­cola (Imaflora)
  • Bianca Jagger, Founder and Chair, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation

 

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