Illegal Amazon rainforest plots sold via Facebook
SAO PAOLO, Feb 26: Parts of Brazil's Amazon rainforest are being illegally sold on Facebook. The protected areas include national forests and land reserved for indigenous peoples.
Some of the plots listed via Facebook's classified ads service are as large as 1,000 football pitches. Anyone can find the illegally invaded plots by typing the Portuguese equivalents for search terms like "forest", "native jungle" and "timber" into Facebook Marketplace's search tool, and picking one of the Amazonian states as the location.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is at a 10-year high, and Facebook's Marketplace has become a go-to site for sellers like Fabricio Guimar�es, who was filmed by a hidden camera. "There's no risk of an inspection by state agents here," he said as he walked through a patch of rainforest he had burnt to the ground.
With the land illegally cleared and ready for farming, he had tripled his initial asking price to $35,000 (£25,000).
Many of the ads came from Rond�nia, the most deforested state in Brazil's rainforest region. One man, called Alvim Souza Alves, was trying to sell a plot inside the Uru Eu Wau Wau indigenous reserve for about £16,400 in local currency.
It is the home to a community of more than 200 Uru Eu Wau Wau people. And at least five further groups that have had no contact with the outside world also live there, according to the Brazilian government.
But at the meeting, Mr Alves claimed: "There are no Indians [sic] there. From where my land is, they are 50km [31 miles] away. I am not going to tell you that at one time or another they are not walking around."
Another factor driving the illegal land market is the expectation of amnesty. Alves revealed he was working with others to lobby politicians to help them legally own stolen land.
A common strategy 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. The land grabbers can then officially buy the plots from the government, thereby legalising their claims. -BBC