BRASILIA (Reuters) - Police escorted a group of Greenpeace activists from a remote town in the Brazilian Amazon on Wednesday after hundreds of loggers and townspeople besieged them overnight in protest against an anti-global warming campaign, the environmental organization said.
The incident, the second time in two months that Greenpeace activists have been harassed in the Amazon jungle, underscores the conflicts over natural resources between farmers and loggers on one side and peasants and Indians on the other.
Hundreds of people, including dozens of loggers in trucks, cars and motorcycles, had blockaded the activists since Tuesday in the offices of the government’s environmental protection agency Ibama in Castelo dos Sonhos, northern Para state, a Greenpeace spokesman said.
They forced the activists to abandon a 13-metre (43-foot) tree trunk they were transporting to an exhibit on global warming in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Loggers had used two trucks on Tuesday afternoon to block the Greenpeace convoy, forcing the environmentalists to seek refuge in the Ibama office.
The stand-off ended peacefully when police escorted the eight activists out of town, Greenpeace’s Andre Muggiati said by telephone from Manaus, the Amazon’s main city.
Ibama said on Wednesday it withdrew its authorization for Greenpeace to transport the tree trunk, saying that the group had created conflicts with the local population.
“Rather than standing up to the loggers, the government has given in to the law of the mob,” said Marcelo Maquesini, Greenpeace Amazon coordinator.
Greenpeace said in a statement that the tree, which had been burned illegally, symbolized the rapid destruction of the Amazon and was meant to draw attention to the need to stop deforestation and reduce emissions of gases causing global warming.
The Brazilian has hailed a 50 percent reduction in the rate of Amazon destruction over the last two years.
But satellite images of some regions since July show deforestation is on the rise again as high commodity prices lead farmers to expand into the forest, often bringing them into conflict with peasants and indigenous Indians.
A U.S.-born nun and environmental activist, Dorothy Stang, was murdered on a remote jungle track in 2005 by gunmen hired by ranchers.