Amazon Activist Paulo Paulino Guajajara Killed at 26

He dedicated his life to protecting his native forest from illegal logging. At 26, Paulo Paulino Guajajara was murdered by wood traffickers in the Amazon.

‘We don’t want war. We just want to resist’

Paulo Paulino devoted his life to protecting the forest that he called home — despite severe risks and death threats. He was born in the early 1990s in Brazil. A member of the Guajajara tribe, an indigenous group of 20,000 in the Amazon region, Paulino grew up aware of the importance of the environment. As an adult, he joined the Guardians of the Forest, a group founded in 2012 to fight the growing menace of illegal logging. This practice is damaging the ecosystem of the Araribóia indigenous reserve and endangering those who live there, such as the Awá, an uncontacted tribe.

He and the other guardians organized forest patrols to alert firefighters of any fires, share the GPS coordinates of deforested areas, and destroy the loggers’ illegal camps. Because of this, they often receive death threats. The loggers hire hitmen to murder certain guardians in Araribóia. On several occasions, members of Guardians of the Forest have been killed. Fearing for their lives, they contacted the government, asking for protection. “We’re very worried about these threats, some of the guardians’ homes have been shot at. We don’t want war. We just want to resist,” says Olimpio Guajajara, Coordinator of Guardians of the Forest.

In spite of the risks, Paulino kept up the fight. On November 1, 2019, he was traveling far from his village, accompanied by another member of the Guardians of the Forest, when at least 5 armed men suddenly appeared. Shots broke the silence of the forest. His friend was hit but managed to escape — but Paulino did not. After dedicating his life to protecting nature, Paulino died protecting his land. According to local media, he was 26. It is the latest incident in a wave of violence targeting Indigenous Land Protectors since the election of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro the year before.