From the archives: Slain Brazilian Becomes Symbol

XAPURI, Brazil -- Francisco Mendes, 44, grew up in the forest and spent most of his life plying its shaded paths, gathering natural latex and Brazil nuts to earn a meager living. Like thousands of other rubber tappers in the Amazon basin, Mendes loved the peace and tranquillity of forest life. His conservation efforts earned him an international reputation--and perhaps caused his death. When a 20-gauge shotgun blast killed Mendes last Dec. 22, Xapuri rubber tappers lost their leader--and the Amazon conservation movement lost one of its most effective spokesmen. But here in Mendes' native state of Acre, rubber tappers and conservationists have much cause for hope. Contrary to what...