LA in the News – Indigenous Forest Guardian Murdered by Illegal Loggers in Brazilian Amazon

More and more of the Amazonian rainforest has been cut, logged and replaced with pastoral lands. Although we know much about the way Bolsonaro has sold off large chunks of the Amazon purposefully instead of protecting the area. The Araribóia indigenous reserve is home to 5,300 indigenous Brazilians of the Guajajara tribe and the Awá and covers an area of 1,595 sq miles in the heartland of the Amazon. While many of the lands surrounding the area have been cut down, the tribal lands have remained relatively intact directly due to the efforts of the indigenous “forest guardians” who ward off logging gangs. 

Amazon warriors fight off loggers

These articles are about the death of one of those guardians, Paulo Paulino Guajajara, at the hands of illegal loggers. Within Bolsonaro’s rule, attacks and invasions of indigenous lands have skyrocketed, with 160 reported cases of land invasions, doubling last year’s numbers. This is in tandem with his government actively dropping support of indigenous and environmental support groups by cutting their budgets and thereby cutting off any possibility for support from agencies meant to maintain the reserve. Effectively, leaving them to fend for themselves against the extreme violence used by the loggers and the brush fires that have plagued the region. Showing how Bolsonaro has essentially targeted indigenous people and their lands to be logged and specifically withheld support to sustain that aim. 

Both of the articles specifically critique Bolsonaro’s government and his lack of support of indigenous people but through entirely different means. While Amazon Watch critiques the government through the use of the leaders of agencies within the government calling out it’s actions, the Guardian article subtly solely uses the indigenous people as their sources. This is significant because the Guardian use it to articulate the support of Bolsonaro through the entirety of government, along with the concept that these killings are regular occurrences that started as far back as 2015. Linking the idea to a sustained campaign rather than linking it specifically to Bolsonaro’s government. While the Amazon Watch article does it through the perspective of those in governance and the indigenous tribe, resulting in a seemingly coherent response against the atrocities from significant portions of the government. This therefore links the idea specifically to Bolsonaro rather than any other part of the government and placing the blame solely on him. 

Many of the themes prevalent in our article link back to those we have studied within the classroom. Particularly authoritarian governments and their consistent conflict over indigenous rights. European colonialism has left a legacy of racial based class dynamic, with indigenous people being the poorest and most exploitable because of the wealth extracted from them from European elites, which has meant that a key way indigenous rights have been maintained and grown is through conflict. As we saw with Tupac Amaru and his failed rebellion, the Mexican revolution or even the Cuban revolution, much of the understanding of the role of racial hierarchy and colonialism in the perpetuation of that abuse was created under the fermentation of revolt against European style elites. The quote that “Large numbers of Afro-Cuban professionals…attest to the ways revolutionary actions brought about change”(Benson, 24), supports the idea that conscious understanding of indigenous rights and rights for people of colour is brought about through newfound awareness during periods of violence. 

Work Cited:

Benson, Devyn Spence. “Not Blacks, but Citizens.” Antiracism in Cuba, 2016, 30–71.

Cowie, Sam. “Brazilian ‘Forest Guardian’ Killed by Illegal Loggers in Ambush.” The Guardian, November 2, 2019.

Rossi, Camila. “Indigenous Forest Guardian Murdered by Illegal Loggers in Brazilian Amazon.” Amazon Watch, November 1, 2019.

Parracho, Lunae. Ka’apor Indian Warriors Tie up Loggers during an Expedition to Search for and Expel Illegal Loggers, November 1, 2019. Photograph. Reuters.


Class notes for 28th October

LA in the News was presented by Gabby in which she highlighted the reaction of the Honduran people to the news that their presidents brother had been accepting bribes from the notorious drug lord, El Chapo. It reinforced the idea that the government was corrupt and with the further news that the money was meant for the president himself led to a far reaching protest movement against the government which has left as many as 23 dead. Furthermore, she articulated the fact that we can understand how this wasn’t a lone case of corruption, and that politicians had been taking money away from education and healthcare to line their own pockets, while as much as 60% of the Honduran population remained in poverty. 

Throughout this class we focused primarily on the Nicaraguan revolution and it’s far reaching effects across the South American continent. We learned about the FSLN, how they formed out of an independence movement led by Sandino and how by the 1980’s they had taken power away from the Somoza dictatorial family, who were supported by the US. A major part of the class was spent analyzing the Time’s cover of Daniel Ortega which had been captioned “the man who makes Reagan see red” against a red background. We went into depth in analysing how Cold War politics of complete hostility by the US towards leftist movements in South America had pushed them to align with dictators like the Somoza family. But also how they had supported terrorists against democratically elected governments, like the support of the Contras against the Nicaraguan government. The emphasis of each of these policies for the US was always to preserve its economic interests within their sphere of influence and maintain stability. 

Within the discussions we talked a lot about the nature of the FSLN and their divergence from traditional leftist groups in their inclusion of women, people of colour and religion directly in their manifesto. We understood how their inclusion of each of these elements allowed them to thrive, for example, through targeting people of faith, it allowed them to distance themselves from marxist anti-clerical revolutions and thus gain the support of much of the population or through their emphasis on bringing back exiled and asylum seekers in order to help the cause of the revolution. Furthermore, we discussed how the FSLN stressed literacy, not just to increase the general education of the population but also to indoctrinate them through specific concepts and ideas that directly supported the new government. 

Key Terms:

The Contras – The Contras were the various U.S.-backed and funded right-wing rebel groups that were active from 1979 to the early 1990s

Daniel Ortega – The leader of nicaragua, first took power in 1979 as Coordinator of the Junta of National Reconstruction and then as President of the country from 1985. 

FSLN –  The Sandinista National Liberation Front is a socialist political party in Nicaragua which overthrew the dictatorial government of the Somoza family and installed a revolutionary government in 1979. 



What are the potential ramifications of US support of right wing terrorist groups against democratically elected governments?How exactly did the US view the FSLN, especially due to their considerable emphasis on religion?

In what ways did the majority of the population react to the takeover of Nicaragua by the FSLN? How about the governments of the nations around it?