Indigenous leaders tear-gassed by police in front of Brazil’s National Congress in April 2017. They were protesting the surging violence against Indians seen since Temer took power, as well as the government’s assaults on indigenous land rights. Photo: Wilson Dias / Agencia Brasil

By Sue Branford and Maurício Torres
1 June 2017

(Mongabay) – "The first five months of 2017 have been the most violent this century," says Cândido Neto da Cunha, a specialist in agrarian affairs at the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) in Santarém, Brazil. According to the Catholic Church's Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), which has been compiling statistics on rural violence since 1985, 36 people have already been assassinated in rural conflicts this year.

The latest violence came on May 24th, when nine men and a woman were killed in what seems to have been a deliberate massacre on the Santa Lúcia estate in the rural district of Pau D'Arco located 535 miles south of Belém, the capital of the state of Pará.

For many years, landless families had lobbied for the creation of a land reform settlement on this estate, saying that the man claiming to own the land, now deceased, was a land thief. His widow agreed to hand over the property, but had second thoughts when INCRA officials, who cannot pay above the market price, refused to pay her what she asked.

In the meantime, landless families had occupied the area and a security guard, working for the ranch, was killed on April 30th. A posse of military and civil police went in to evict the families and to investigate the death. The families say the police arrived shooting. This version is disputed by the police, who claim that the peasant families shot at them first. However, no police officer was killed or wounded.

As Cunha pointed out, this is only the latest in a series of violent land conflicts this year. On April 19th, 10 peasants, including children, were tortured and then murdered in the rural district of Colniza in the northwest of Mato Grosso. On April 30th a group of Gamela Indians were attacked by a large group of armed men sent in by farmers. Over two dozen Indians were injured, with four hospitalized in critical condition. Two had their hands lopped off and their legs cut at the joints.

On May 25th, 19 organizations, including the CPT and the landless movements, published a letter in which they railed against the systematic "impunity of human rights violations in the countryside." They went on: "The State is not only complicit and absent … but also an active agent in encouraging the violence, not only through the policies and programs carried out by the Executive, but also by the action of the Legislative which is destroying rights won by the workers." [more]

Brazil assaults indigenous rights, environment, social movements

The bodies of nine men and one woman, rural landless workers, who were killed during a police operation at a hacienda in the interior of the state of Pará, 31 May 2017. Photo: Lunae Parracho / REUTERS

By María Martín
26 May 2017

Rio de Janeiro (El País) – The eternal problem of conflicts over land in Brazil adds a new slaughter to a bloody year. In the latest incident, which occurred last Wednesday in the Amazon, nine men and one woman, rural landless workers, were killed during a police operation at a hacienda in the interior of the state of Pará. The police had gone to the site in the municipality of Pau d'Arco to comply with judicial mandates of imprisonment and registration for the death, on 30 April, of a security guard of the hacienda, who are disputing a latifundist and landless workers. Since the beginning of 2017, 36 people have been killed in similar disputes, according to data from the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), a body linked to the Catholic Church that defends rural workers.

According to the authorities, the agents were shot at and reacted. Eleven weapons were collected, including a rifle, but there were no injuries among the police. A special prosecutor's office deployed to the area to investigate the incident has raised suspicions about police action and the local authorities' version. Prosecutors have pointed out that the agents tried to dispatch the massacre on the basis of an "act of resistance" of the victims, in order to be able to file it without further investigation. "What are they trying to hide? That movement may be an indication that they do not want the case to be investigated and how the killings were discovered: if they were executions, if there were actually confrontation, the number of shots …" Said the president of the National Human Rights Council, Darci Frigo, who accompanies the prosecution's mission.

At the Santa Lucia farm, the scene of the massacre, 150 families had been camped out since May 2015, according to the CPT. The families claimed to include the farm in the process of agrarian reform to give them their use and in fact the owner was negotiating their sale to the Government. It claimed 32 million reals (almost 10 million euros), ten more than the price charged by public administration technicians. In the absence of agreement, the Government was looking for a place to relocate the families.

The violent outcome of the dispute makes it the worst massacre for agrarian conflict in Brazil since the massacre of Eldorado do Carajás in 1996 in the same region, when police officers killed 19 people who participated in a peaceful march of the Movement of Rural Workers Sin Tierra.Today, none of those responsible for the deaths have been punished.

Violence in the countryside over land disputes massacres dozens of rural workers year after year in Brazil. "The country has one of the most concentrated agrarian structures in the world, inherited from the colonial system . Nearly 1% of the owners own 60% of the land," explains Bernardo Mançano, a professor at the University of São Paulo. Of the 36 deaths so far this year, one-third have fallen in the northern state of Pará, part of the Amazon region. Last April, nine rural workers were also killed by hooded gunmen at a camp in Mato Grosso, sparking the alert again. The area, in the middle of the Amazon jungle, was occupied by about 100 families for more than a decade, and is coveted by loggers and landowners looking for new areas for cattle grazing.

"More and more latifundistas are seeking to expand the concentration of properties because the agricultural industry and multinational corporations are very interested in leasing these lands, with the approval of the Government." The Amazon frontier, in the states of Matto Grosso, Rondônia and Para, is Also the agricultural frontier of Brazil, where the latifundistas want to expand, and where more murders of occupants of abandoned lands, peasants and indigenous people we are watching, if they resist, they are eliminated, "laments Mançano.

The CPT 's violence report of 2016 revealed an average of five murders a month with 61 deaths of quilombolas (descendants of black slaves settled in rural areas), indigenous and landless activists, a 22% increase over 2015. The same report also reports that death threats increased by 86% and 68% of attempted killings. Since 1985, agrarian conflicts have killed the lives of 1,834 Brazilians, and most of the massacres have ended unpunished: only 31 people have been arrested for ordering any of these deaths.

Often, despite the high number of deaths, incidents have little information coverage, among other reasons because they are recorded in remote places difficult to access. And for the same reason it is usual that the details are never fully clarified. [Translation by Google]

Una nueva matanza revela la barbarie por los conflictos agrarios en Brasil



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