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No more rural violence!

Violencia cero en Pará

Killings in the Amazon


Obede Loyla Souza:
Fifth murder victim in the last 20 days


On Thursday, June 9, another anti-logging activist was killed in the Brazilian northern state of Pará. The victim, Obede Loyla Souza, a 31-year-old father of three, was an agro-extractivist, or member of a rainforest community whose livelihood is based on the sustainable harvesting of forest products. His is the fifth murder reported in the last three weeks. President Dilma Rousseff’s deployment of National Security Forces is apparently not enough to deter the loggers and large agribusiness producers who are deforesting the Amazon rainforest. Peasant organizations are calling for a comprehensive agrarian reform to be implemented immediately.



Interviewed by Sirel, “Gutodos Santos, president of the Federation of Agricultural Workers of Pará (FETAGRI-PA), informed that “Obede Loyla was a member of the Esperança settlement, located in the municipality of Pacajá, state of Pará. We’re still checking the reports we received, but we do know that he was killed with a bullet to the head, inside the settlement and only a few hundred meters from his house.”


According to the first testimonies gathered at the scene, Loyla “had had an incident some months ago with loggers whom he had caught in the act of cutting valuable trees in the settlement’s land. It’s very likely that this argument was what cost him his life now,” Guto said.


“We’re contacting the authorities at the highest levels, calling on them to take more efficient measures to stop the violence caused by logging and agribusiness consortiums in the region,” he noted.


Messengers of death

A growing death toll


On May 24, José Claudio Ribeiro and María do Espírito Santo da Silva, a husband and wife team of environmental activists who were members of the Praia Alta-Piranheira Agro-Extractivist Project, were ambushed and killed in the Pará municipality of Nova Ipixuna.


Shortly after that, another agro-extractivist settler, Herenilton Pereira, and possible witness of the double crime, was also murdered.


On May 27, peasant leader Adelino Ramos was shot dead in Vista Alegre do Abunã, state of Rondonia.


This time, it was Obede Loyla Souza’s turn.


According to information from the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), since 1996, when 19 landless rural workers were slaughtered in what became known as the “Eldorado dos Carajás Massacre,” there have been 212 land conflict-related killings in the state of Pará alone; that’s more than one murder a month in the last 15 years, not counting those committed in other Brazilian states.


In addition, 809 people –mostly trade unionist, environmental activists and human rights defenders– have received death threats. In its June 14 edition, the Rio de Janeiro newspaper O Globo featured a map of Brazil showing the number and geographical distribution of these deaths, which illustrates this shocking situation. (Click here for map).


According to CPT lawyer José Batista, seven out of every ten murders occur in the Marabá area, where deforestation is very advanced and there are very few areas still unaffected by logging.


The land struggle can be seen clearly in the following figures: “Some 463 fazendas (agricultural estates) have been occupied since 1996. Nearly 79,000 families settled there, with 32,000 of them subsequently forced out. In this state of permanent turmoil, 799 people have been arrested and thrown in jail. The prospect of changes to the Forest Code and the shifts in state government policies stepped up the process of deforestation and violence,” Batista said.


The sale of rainforest wood is a highly profitable business. For example, a chestnut tree is currently worth US$ 14,000 in the international market,” Batista concluded.


Agrarian reform now!

Great mobilization in Marabá


“As we speak, more than 2,000 rural workers –members of our organization FETAGRI-PA, MST (Landless Peasant Movement) and FETRAF (National Federation of Family Agriculture Workers)– are still gathered in a rally in the city of Marabá,” Dos Santos said.


“We had a meeting there yesterday to negotiate with the president of the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), Celso Lisboa. We presented him with demands from social organizations and the response we got was totally unacceptable, as he only contemplated 20 percent of what we are requesting.” 


“This new murder confirms that strong and truly impartial police and judicial measures are needed, but it also shows that in order to get to the root of the problem we need to have public policies that are appropriate for this region, in particular we need to have more resources to implement an agrarian reform, which is essential to bring peace to the Amazon rainforest,” Guto dos Santos concluded.




From Montevideo, Carlos Amorín


June 15, 2011






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