Amnesty adopts Brazil rubber tappers' leader


Amnesty International is demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Antonio Batisda De Macedo — a rubber tappers' leader arrested on September 20 and the first prisoner of conscience adopted in Brazil for over a decade. "Antonio Macedo's detention appears to be part of a long-standing pattern of intimidation and threats of rubber tappers in Brazil which first captured international attention seven years ago with the assassination of trade union leader Chico Mendes", Amnesty said on September 26.
"We believe Antonio Macedo is imprisoned solely for his peaceful activities in promoting rubber tappers' associations and cooperatives."
Macedo was arrested in Brazil's western Amazonian state of Acre, and has begun serving a 16-month prison sentence for having "incited rubber tappers to disobey an eviction order" in June 1991. Macedo claims he was in the United States at the time of the incident. Another rubber tappers' leader, Damiao Goncalvez da Silva, has been summoned to appear in court in connection with the same case and may face similar imprisonment.
Both men were sentenced in June 1992 and in June 1995 their appeal against their conviction was denied. The charges against were originally brought for their involvement in an incident in June 1991 in which rubber tappers from the 29-year-old community of Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale failed to obey an eviction order issued by the courts.
Since the rubber and timber company bringing the eviction had no legal title to the land in question, the company later abandoned its claim, and the rubber tappers continue to work the rubber trails there.
Macedo is a long-standing campaigner for the rights of rubber tappers and indigenous people in the Alto Jurua region of Acre. He was an associate of Chico Mendes.

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