Wave of killings in Brazilian Amazon near areas of heavy deforestation

24 Apr 2019

A wave of targeted violence in the Brazilian countryside claimed the lives of at least nine people in three reported massacres since March 22.

Tensions in Amazonia have exploded in areas of heavy deforestation where the building of large dams has brought a capital infusion, sent land prices soaring, and invited land speculation by land grabbers, loggers and ranchers.

The three attacks on activists involved in social movements or rural workers’ organizations have three characteristics in common: they all occurred in areas within the influence of a large hydroelectric dam; they all happened near or within an agrarian reform settlement; and all are located along one of Amazonia’s primary deforestation fronts.

In response to the increased rural violence, the Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) has launched a new website: Massacres in the Countryside. That page will be updated with newly confirmed reports of massacres —killings involving three or more people. Between 1985 and 2017, CPT recorded 45 massacres in which 214 people in nine states were killed. Pará state saw the largest number of massacres over this period — 26 in all, in which 125 people were killed, over half of the victims in all of the massacres.

The federal government has so far not condemned the rise in violence that has occurred since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro came to power in January.

Isolete Wichinieski, CPT’s national coordinator, was not surprised by the administration’s failure to issue a public statement on the wave of killings. “The government’s position with respect to the countryside is that there are no conflicts, or the conflicts are created by the communities,” she said. “And their solution is to criminalize the social movements, not to resolve the land conflict.”

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Learn more about this topic at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany, 22-23 June 2019.

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