Thursday, April 22, 2010

Saving the Amazon

A Brazilian rancher's conviction for the murder of a U.S. nun in the Amazon could help discourage attacks on rain forest activists that for decades have largely gone unpunished, environmentalists and legal officials said Tuesday.

Vitalmiro Moura was sentenced to 30 years for ordering the killing of 73-year-old Dorothy Stang in 2005 because she blocked him and another rancher from taking over land the government gave to farmers.

Hundreds of activists have been killed in Brazil in the last 20 years - but only about 80 triggermen, usually paid by powerful ranchers with land claims at stake, were behind bars before Tuesday. Moura is the only so-called mastermind of one of the killings to join them, raising hopes that the climate of impunity in the Amazon is finally nearing an end.

The only message sent by this belated, lone conviction of one of the masterminds and money men is that the "progressive" Brazilian government will take no significant steps to protect the Amazon.

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