November 11, 2019 / 5:07 PM / a month ago

Indigenous leader calls for EU action against firms over Brazil deforestation

PARIS (Reuters) - The European Union should consider sanctions for companies that source materials from protected Brazilian forest reservations and native lands, an indigenous community representative said.

Indigenous Leader Sonia Guajajara of the Guajajara tribe is seen during an interview with Reuters during her European tour in Paris, France, November 11, 2019. REUTERS/Noemie Olive

Sonia Guajajara, the head of APIB, which represents many of Brazil’s 900,000 native people, called on Monday for EU lawmakers to exert pressure on Brazil’s government to better protect the rights of indigenous communities and for scrutiny of companies profiting from deforestation in the Amazon.

“We are calling on the European community to support us so that each of them in their country can pressure companies, pressure parliamentarians, so they can adopts laws that guarantee the traceability of products and their production chain,” she told Reuters in an interview.

“Also, it must enable them to sanction companies that buy and get their supplies from conflict zones,” she added.

Brazilian indigenous leaders including Sonia are due to meet French lawmakers this week as part of a campaign through 12 European countries following clashes in the Amazon.

Illegal loggers shot dead a young member of the protected Guajajara tribe in Brazil this month, increasing worldwide concerns over the government’s environmental record and its dealings with indigenous communities.

Right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office earlier this year, has vowed to open up protected lands to economic development, leading campaigners to warn of a looming crisis in the face of increased invasions by armed loggers.

“This is a very serious moment for Brazil,” Sonia said.

Indigenous leaders also visited Brussels, and have been meeting with company representatives and lawmakers.

Paulo Paulino Guajajara, who was part of an indigenous group that was formed to protect the forest, was hunting inside a reservation in Maranhao when loggers opened fire and shot him.

Another Guajajara, Laercio, was wounded but escaped.

Since the killing, the Brazilian state of Maranhao has set up a police task force to protect the tribe from illegal loggers, and Federal Justice Minister Sergio Moro vowed a thorough investigation.

President Emmanuel Macron clashed with Bolsonaro in August, when fires swept the Amazon region, prompting the French leader to call for better management of the rainforest to end an ‘ecocide’. Bolsonaro called the comments offensive and accused Macron of questioning Brazil’s sovereignty.

Reporting by Noemie Olive; Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Alexander Smith

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