TED Fellows

TEDx speaker Zé Cláudio killed. What actions can we take now?

On the morning of Tuesday, May 24, 2011, Zé Cláudio and his wife Maria were murdered in their home in Nova Ipixuna, Pará. Cláudio spoke at TEDxAmazonia about the forest where he lived, harvesting nuts from the ancient trees and protecting his land from illegal loggers. In his talk, he predicted that he would be killed by the forces trying to take his land. Sadly, he was proved right. Sadder still, in the two weeks following these murders, three more have taken place, reports TED Fellow Juliana Machado Ferreira. The fight has turned lethal.

The TED Blog asked Juliana: What can we do? She sent these suggestions

1. Make sure the wood/wood products you buy are legal.
At the end of his TED talk, Zé Cláudio made one appeal: that we stop buying illegal timber, wood and wood products which may have come from illegal logging activities. This is what supports the illegal loggers and make their scheme profitable. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to have control over such a huge industry and the sole mechanism we have is buying only certified wood. Certification is still far from ideal but buying only certified wood most definitely increases the difficulty for the illegal products to reach the market. And for Ze’s murderers to profit from it.

2.Give voice to “the other Ze Claudios”
In the last eleven years, 42 people were murdered in conflicts in rural areas of Para. The deaths are mainly driven by conflicts between extractivist settlers and illegal loggers and charcoal producers.

We are putting together a team to go to Nova Ipixuna to shoot a documentary with the other 30 names on the list of most threatened persons made by the Pastoral da Terra. Ze and Maria were on this list. They are gone. But all the others are still alive, and we have a responsibility towards them, amplifying their voice, showing their faces, turning the world’s, and hopefully, our government’s attention to the conflicts on that area. We will launch the documentary in the crowd-funding website http://catarse.me/en and we count with everyone to let them tell their stories. (The TED Blog will publish the link as soon as we upload the project.)

3. Help us get the settlers connected
This is a plea to TED donors and sponsors. The settlers are very isolated. Phones signals are unstable and internet is a distant reality. Actually, having more access to communications might have saved Ze’s and Maria’s lives. We just heard from Felipe Milanez, who is on the ground in Nova Ipixuna, that in the weeks previous to the murders, Ze and Maria had been receiving numerous death threats – more than usual – and were scared of the people showing up in their property. A week before their death, some armed men were walking around Ze’s property, shooting to the sky, and then killed Ze’s dog. A week later they were ambushed when going to the city. Maybe if they had a way to ask for help from their house, they might have escaped.

To fight the lack of communications infrastructure on the region, we are putting together a project, following what Nokia did in Manaus. We want to arm the people there with cell phones through which they could send text messages that would reach both the IBAMA office directly and a website, via which we could keep an eye on the denounces and threats, and demand actions from the government. In order to accomplish this we need the help of companies that have the means and expertise to set all this infrastructure up. We are ready to sit down and talk to anyone who can help us in this path.

4. Help Ze’s and Maria’s family
Ze’s and Maria’s family are terrified because they too know the names and identities of the illegal loggers and charcoal producers and the people and companies who buy these illegal products. They too are a valuable source of information. For this reason, they had to leave the reserve and cannot collect nuts to support themselves anymore. They are in desperate need of all kinds of help. All sorts of communication with them is very difficult, and we are still assessing exactly what kind of help they need, but at this moment here is some information we know for sure:

One of Ze’s sisters, who lives in Tocantins, has a disease which no doctor until today could explain or treat. Ze was very concerned and even borrowing money from friends to try to get her private care (here in Brazil public health care is a sad joke). It would mean a lot to their family if a hospital or a health group could take over her treatment.

Also, Ze and Maria not only had a 15-year-old son who they made sure went to school, but they were the ones supporting Ze’s younger sister so that she could keep attending a Forestry undergraduate course. We would wholeheartedly welcome contributions in terms of sponsorships and scholarships that would allow them to finish their studies.

If you can or would like to help with any of the projects described above, please write to sempremajestade@gmail.com

— Juliana Machado Ferreira and the TEDxAmazonia curators group

Photo: Felipe Milanez