He Paid with His Life

22 December marks the date on which Chico Mendes, a Brazilian rubber tapper, trade union leader and environmentalist, was assassinated by a rancher in 1988.

Mendes fought to preserve the Amazon rainforest, and advocated for the human rights of indigenous peoples. Chico Mendes and the rubber workers union asked the government to set up reserves as they wanted people to use the forest without damaging it. They also used a very effective technique they called the ’empate’ where rubber tappers blocked the way into rubber reserves, preventing their destruction.

Mendes won several awards for his work, including the United Nations Environmental Program Global 500 Roll of Honor Award in 1987, and the National Wildlife Federation’s National Conservation Achievement Award in 1988. Mendes was the 19th rural activist to be murdered that year in Brazil.