Attacks and death threats to the Pastoral Land Commission in Brazil

February 20, 2013

The Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), which has for years campaigned to advance social justice and the rights of small farmers and the landless in Brazil, suffered three attacks on its headquarters in the state of Acre in this year alone. It is suspected that these attacks are reprisal attacks on CPT, which recently denounced irregularities in forest management and land ownership in the states of Acre and Amazonas. The CPT was awarded the Right Livelihood Award Foundation (http://www.rightlivelihood.org/),  in 1991.

The CPT has been attacked seven times in the past two years and three times since January 2013. These attacks took place at the headquarters of the CPT in the state of Acre in western Brazil bordering Peru and Bolivia where the organisation had questioned the concentration of natural resources in the hands of few. According to the National Committee of the CPT, burglars forced access into the CPT headquarters of Rio Branco, Acre, on the morning of January 21, and stole work items such as computers, printers, cameras and important institutional documentation. The police could not find any fingerprints to provide clues about the attackers. Another attack occurred at the same venue during the early hours of January 22. At that time the criminals only stole documents, including the police report from the day before. An identical attack occurred on January 30. In addition to these break-ins and thefts, Marlene Braga Maria Martins, coordinator of CPT in the region, and Cosme Capistano da Silva, pastoral worker in the city of Boca do Acre, have both received death threats. CPT has filed complaints in these cases to the relevant state and federal authorities. According to a CPT report, 29 people were killed in Brazil during 2011 because of land related conflicts. A partial survey conducted in 2012 indicates that this trend is continuing.

The Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Ole von Uexkull, reiterated his concern at the lack of protection given to rural workers in Brazil and called on state and federal governments to vigorously pursue investigations in the cases reported: “These recent attacks on CPT workers and offices, together with the recent murders of Brazilian MST activists Cícero Guedes and Regina dos Santos Pinho show that threats to rural workers need to be taken seriously and deserve our full attention.

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