Brazil: The Forest Code and the Blood

by Felipe Milanez

“Anything I say, and anything I write, the tears drop. I think the ink, when I write, is blurred by tears”. Pause. Cry. Tears.

And Ms. Maria keep going: “The daring. It is the thing that feeds us, for me. It feeds me for struggle.” More tears.

We are acquainted on the porch of her house, in the agroextractivist settlement Praia Alta Piranheira. It’s a nice day, strong sun, October 2010. The porch is the “office” of D. Maria, so said her husband Zé Cláudio.

Mr Zé Cláudio is quite impatient while D. Maria is chatting to me. He gets nervous. He knows she has a big mouth. And D. Maria shares the threats they’ve been under of. Intimidation. Messages. Anguish. The timber cutters who want to exploit the Nut’s trees. The coal miners who want to make coal.

The land owners who want grass for cattle. It’s too strong. It’s sensitive. It’s been in concluding process the master degree dissertation – “I want to research our settlement project. Who comes here to do research, comes, goes and doesn’t come back.” She wants to write a book. Because she thinks theses stories must be written.

She said to me many beautiful things. Full of tears:

“When this settlement was organized, for me it was such a distant reality. And I came from the rural  area. My father was a farmer, he never raised cattle, he always lived from the forest. With this project in my mind, I, just like the other leaders around here from extractivists people, all my trajectory, arriving and settling here, this history of struggle we are building here inside. All the beautiful things around. It was a model back in 1997. Nowadays, we rely and can count on Rubber Tappers National Council and Land Pastoral Commission. No one else supports us anymore. This gives me anguish. So, it came up the idea to write a book. The project is being plundered day by day, the biodiversity is disappearing.

The others, just silence.

Something must remain written. It’s  not enough I write a dissertation to fulfill the university requirements. But, I suppose to leave something to the other generations. If you come back here in a month from now, or 10 years, it doesn’t matter. The day you come back here you will find the same people, only a little  older, as we are aging every day. But the forest will be the same. The idea will be the same.”

Mr. Zé Cláudio, a brave fighter, was outraged because the illegal selling of the woods: “who buys it?” And he claims to himself to be the true environmentalist: “because I live in the forest, I live in it and and don’t sell it”.

This couple was murdered on Tuesday morning, by 7:30 am, about 8 km far from the house. They were heading Marabá. Dilma ordered the Federal Police Force to investigate – to send the police to investigate a crime would be necessary if there were a law that forces to it. It’s been fairer the Planalto (Presidential head office) to send some representative to follow the investigation, to the local site, as it had been done with Dorothy Stang’s murder.

At the same day, by night, the Chamber of Deputies approved the project of New Forest Code.

In the plenary, the congressman Sarney Filho (PV), read some pieces of my article on Zé Claudio ( ). Zé Cláudio used to say he loves the forest,  and he desires his ashes should be buried with the Majesty – the beauty and imposing nut’s tree, which is still standing, inside his property. Many in the plenary got moved. Some cried. Just like me when I read again the article. Just like the tears dropping on the keyboard meanwhile I write this text.

The murder of this couple could turn them into martyr in defense of land. But, in this same day, the nation representatives have chosen to point a different path to the future: that one where the forest, if it is still exist in the future, will not be import to the Brazilians. Where the biodiversity, that charmed Zé Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and D. Maria do Espírito Santo, is risking to be reduced to grass and cattle. In a land of blood.

Felipe Milanez é jornalista e advogado, mestre em ciência política pela Universidade de Toulouse, França. Foi editor da revista Brasil Indígena, da Funai, e da revista National Geographic Brasil, trabalhos nos quais se especializou em admirar e respeitar o Brasil profundo e multiétnico (

Source: Terra Magazine