By Joe Sandler Clarke and Sam Cowie
5 June 2017

(Energydesk) – There has been a significant increase in the number of indigenous people and environmental activists killed over land disputes in Brazil, as human rights experts warn of a dangerous political mood in the nation.

New research shared with Energydesk by Brazilian human rights NGO Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), shows that 37 people have been killed in the first six months of the year in rural land conflicts, eight more than at the same time in 2016.

The data comes as President Temer’s right-wing government has cut funding dramatically for the country’s indigenous rights agency, Funai.

CPT, which has been collecting data on rural violence since 1985, has found that so far the number of people killed in these disputes is set to exceed last year’s figures, when 61 people died.

At the end of April, violence against indigenous people in Brazil made international headlines, as 13 members of the Gamela community in Maranhão state were attacked by farmers wielding machetes in brutal land dispute.

A couple of week’s earlier, nine people were stabbed and shot over a territorial dispute in Mato Grosso state, in the Amazon.

Jeane Bellini, national coordinator of CPT told Energydesk that recent years have a significant increase in the number of people being killed in rural land conflicts.

Indigenous people protest a significant increase in the number of environmental activists killed over land disputes in Brazil, as human rights experts warn of a dangerous political mood in the nation. Photo: Greenpeace Energydesk

Bellini believes the current political turmoil in Brazil, the former President Dilma Rousseff was ousted last year while sitting President Michel Temer is embroiled in a corruption scandal, has helped fuel the violence.

“Rural violence has accelerated under President Temer,” she said. “Actually, it isn’t only the government. I would say that the political instability created by all of those irresponsible people in congress, as well as Temer and his government have added. I mean, they’re doing things that are completely against the needs and the rights of the people.”

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, told Energydesk that there is a close correlation between the government’s moves to cut the agency and the increase in violence.

She explained: “There is increased violence because the offices of Funai at the state levels are not functioning anymore. Funai is the only government agency trusted by Indigenous people. People look up to Funai to protect them. Now there is no body trying to protect them.”

Tauli-Corpuz visited Brazil at the end of last year and found government agencies unable to function.

She told Energydesk in December that she visited Funai regional offices which had no staff: “We went to the office in Bahia and there was no one there. There have been huge cutbacks, and they have continued since I came back from my trip.” […]

“I have a sense that the situation in the country is deteriorating,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. [more]

Brazil: Increase in number indigenous activists killed as political crisis threatens Amazon

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