An Indigenous warrior known for defending the Amazon rainforest has been shot dead after illegal loggers set a trap for him in Brazil, according to leaders of the Guajajara tribe.
Paul Paulino Guajajara, a.k.a. Lobo, was shot in the head Friday while he was hunting on the Arariboia reservation in northern Brazil. Tribe leaders said another member of the tribe was injured but escaped the attack.
Lobo, 27, was a member of the Guardians of the Forest, an Indigenous group of about 120 people dedicated to defending government-designated Indigenous territory. The group has often clashed with illegal loggers and farmers, many of whom are eager to slash, burn and kill for their land.
Lobo was a young father concerned about preserving the rainforest for the next generation.
“We have to preserve this life for our children’s future,” he told Reuters earlier this year, amid increasing violence along the forest’s borders.
His nickname means “wolf” in Portuguese.
Critics say the Amazon’s borders have been under siege since far-right president Jair Bolsonaro came to power in Brazil early this year. Bolsonaro has vowed to open up Indigenous lands — which usually include the rainforest — to agricultural development. He has also moved to weaken the government’s legal protections for the Indigenous tribes living in the rainforest, including those who have no contact with the outside world.
Brazil’s Indigenous Missionary Council found 135 Indigenous people were murdered in 2018, up almost 23 per cent from 2017. The violence spiked after Bolsonaro was elected.
Bolsonaro faced intense criticism in the summer while wildfires were tearing through vast swaths of the forest. The president blamed non-government organizations without presenting any evidence, and he also raged against French President Emmanuel Macron, who urged him to take action.
Lobo’s death on Friday sparked outrage from the APIB, the organization representing many of Brazil’s 900,000 Indigenous people.
“The Bolsonaro government has Indigenous blood on its hands,” the APIB said in a statement on Saturday.
Sonia Guajajara, leader of the APIB, blamed Bolsonaro for Lobo’s death.
“It’s time to stop this institutionalized genocide!” she tweeted in Portuguese. “Stop authorizing the bloodshed of our people!”
At least three Guardians of the Forest have previously been killed, according to Survival International, a non-profit group that advocates for uncontacted tribes in Brazil.
Lobo talked about the dangers of defending the forest in an interview with Reuters.
He also described how loggers would set up ambushes in the forest so they could shoot guardians in cold blood.
“I’m scared at times, but we have to lift up our heads and act,” he added. “We are here fighting.”
No arrests have been made.