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Published on Nov 23, 2011
On May 24, 2011—the same day Brazil's Parliament voted to decrease logging restrictions in the country's Forest Code—married environmental activists Zé Cláudio Ribeiro and Maria do Espirito Santo were shot to death outside their house in the Amazonian state of Para. A month later we traveled to Zé Cláudio's hometown of Marabá, which was once in the middle of the rainforest and is now surrounded by miles and miles of clearcut cattle land. As the investigation into Zé and Maria's murders went nowhere, we drove into the forest to the site of the killings, followed the heavily armed men of Brazil's environmental protection agency as they busted up illegal timber mills, visited the militant squatters of Brazil's Landless Movement, met modern day slaves, and marveled at the lawless, violent atmosphere that permeates the town locals call Marabála (that means Mara-bullets).