EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 19/27/97
UA 340/97 Death Threats / Fear for safety 30 October 1997
BRAZILMiriam Prochnow (f), environmental activist
Wigold Schaeffer (m), environmental activist
Two environmental activists campaigning to save the Mata Atlantica Rainforests
in the state of Santa Catarina in the south of Brazil have been threatened
with death because of their work. Amnesty International is concerned for the
safety of the couple and their two young children.
The anonymous threats against Miriam Prochnow and Wigold Schaeffer were left
on their telephone answering machine last week. One caller said, "Tell Miriam
and Wigold to keep out of the logging in Santa Terezinha [a small town nearby],
because we are not like Pamplona [a local meat company], we’re not going to
just make threats and then do nothing". Another caller simply repeated over
and over "You’re going to die, you’re going to die". The verbal threats have
now ceased but they continue to receive silent, anonymous phone calls.
Amnesty International is concerned at the failure of the state authorities
to open an immediate investigation into the threats. Miriam Prochnow and Wigold
Schaeffer have been receiving threats since last year, but these most recent
ones have caused them greatest fear for their physical safety and that of their
two young children.
The couple live in a very small town in an isolated region, the Vale do Itajai.
On 23 October, deputies from the state legislative assembly requested police
protection for them, but there has been no response from the state or federal
police. On 24 October, Wigold Schaeffer and Miriam Prochnow formally reported
the death threats and requested a police investigation at the nearest police
station in Rio do Sul. However, the police chief had so far taken no action
either to provide them with protection or to investigate the death threats.
The couple also asked a local state prosecutor to obtain telephone records
in order to help them trace the calls immediately. The state prosecutor refused
and told them to have their lawyer petition for the records from the local
judge. The petition was entered on 24 October and there has so far been no
Wigold Schaeffer and Miriam Prochnow have a long record of environmental
activism in Brazil. They are directors of the well-respected National
Environmental Foundation, APREMAVI, based in Rio do Sul. They have campaigned,
with some success, to keep loggers, tobacco growers, real estate developers
and agribusiness from destroying what remains of the Mata Atlantica rainforest
in Santa Catarina. They have opposed large-scale pig production and fish farming
in the region as the lagoons allegedly became breeding grounds for mosquitoes,
causing epidemics among the local population, especially children. Federal
legislation protects the Mata Atlantica, and the couple has campaigned to
prevent this legislation being overturned by the political allies of the
above-mentioned economic groups. However, the state governor recently
introduced a state law, in contradiction to the federal law, which permits
logging and other environmentally harmful activities in the area.
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