On this day December 22, 1988

Chico Mendes, a Brazilian rubber tapper, unionist and environmental activist, is assassinated.

chico_mendesHe fought to stop the burning and logging of the Amazon Rainforest to clear land for cattle ranching, and founded a national union of rubber tappers in an attempt to preserve their profession and the rainforest that it relied upon.

He was murdered in 1988 by ranchers opposed to his activism. He is survived by three children (Angela, Elenira, and Sandino Mendes).

On the evening in Thursday, December 22, 1988, exactly one week after his 44th birthday, Chico Mendes was assassinated by gunshot at his Xapuri home. In December, 1990 rancher Darcy Alves Pereira and his son Darley Alves were sentenced to 19 years in prison for their part in Mendes’ assassination. In February, 1992, they won a retrial, but remained in prison. In 1993, they staged an escape, but Darcy was recaptured and as of 2004, was still in the jungle.

The murder of Chico Mendes made international headlines, including the front page of the New York Times. Thanks in part to the international media attention surrounding the murder, the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve was created in the area where he lived.

There are more than 20 such reserves now, along the same lines as Mendes had proposed, covering more than 8 million acres (32,000 km²).

Although it is most commonly thought that cattle ranchers were responsible for his death, others have theorized that illegal loggers, plantation owners, or miners were responsible for his murder.

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