Brazil 'to step up Amazon activists' protection'

Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and Mario do Espirito Santo in a file photo from earlier this year Joao Claudio and Maria had received numerous threats, their famiily said

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The Brazilian authorities say they are ready to offer increased protection to environmental activists considered most at risk after receiving death threats.

Ministers held an emergency meeting on violence in the Amazon, where three activists were killed last week.

"We will not accept these murders," said Rural Development Minister Afonso Florence.

The Catholic Church's Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) has a list of 125 activists who have been threatened.

Justice Minister Luiz Paulo Barreto said they would analyse the CPT's information and respond on a case-by-case basis.

At their meeting in the capital, Brasilia, on Monday, ministers agreed to increase co-operation between the federal and state governments.

"We will intensify monitoring and investigation and strengthen actions leading to sustainable development in the region," Mr Florence told reporters.

Threats and violence

The talks came after three campaigners were killed in the Amazon.

On Friday, rural leader Adelino Ramos was shot dead in Porto Velho, capital of Rondonia.

The CPT said Mr Ramos had denounced illegal loggers in the states of Acre, Amazonas and Rondonia.

He had survived a bloody dispute in 1995, when some 300 police officers opened fire on a landless workers' camp near the town of Corumbiara, killing at least 10 people.

On 24 May, the bodies of Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do EspIrito Santo da Silva were found on a nature reserve, Praialta-Piranheira near Maraba, where they had been working for the past 24 years.

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According to family and friends, the couple had received numerous threats in the past two years for their environmental activism.

On Saturday, farmer Eremilton Pereira dos Santos was found shot dead in the same area as the couple. Police said there was no link between the murders.

The CPT says that over the last decade, 1,855 people have received death threats. Of these, 42 were murdered and another 30 had actual attempts on their lives.

"In the Amazon, killing and clearing (the forest) go hand in hand," the CPT said in a statement, calling on the government to do more to tackle the violence.

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