Illegal Amazon Rainforest Plots Are Being Offered For Sale on Facebook Marketplace
A BBC investigation has found land-grabbers in the Amazon rainforest are selling illegal plots via ads on Facebook marketplace, and many sellers don’t even own the land titles they’re offering. The plots, some as large as 1,000 football fields combined, are located in protected areas for use by indigenous rainforest communities. The revelation by the BBC unravels a complex, reckless, behind-the-scenes scam to profiteer off of land indigenous (and, in Brazil, often disenfranchised) people need to survive.
The scam works like this: land grabbers burn down large patches of the forest, enabled by the lax implementation of laws that free them of inspection or accountability of any kind. Once the land is cleared, they post photos of the cleared land online, often with marked-up prices, to sell to wealthy buyers.
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This practice is implicitly condoned by local politicians, whom the land grabbers lobby to obtain legal land titles to the land they deforest. “A common strategy,” Joao Fellet & Charlotte Pamment write for the BBC, “is to deforest the land and then plead with politicians to abolish its protected status, on the basis it no longer serves its original purpose.” This often works, and the land grabbers walk away with legally owned plots of land from the government.
The indigenous people — a majority of whom reside in the most deforested rainforest region in Brazil, called Rondônia — say they lack government support to end the practice and are calling for Facebook to halt such sales. The social media giant, in turn, has refused, citing the impossibility of being able to determine which plots are illegally owned. For now, Facebook has thrown back the problem to the local judiciary and government authorities; the people whose land is being destroyed are seemingly left in the lurch.
Community leader Bitaté Uru Eu Wau Wau tells the BBC, “This is a lack of respect … I don’t know these people. I think their objective is to deforest the indigenous land, to deforest what is standing. To deforest our lives, you could say.”
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