On Nov. 16, Brazilian landless workers Vanderlei Macena Cruz and Mauro Gomes Duarte, residents of Accampamento Renascer (Rebirth Encampment), were assassinated while riding a motorcycle to work near Gleba Gama, in the Nova Guarita region of Brazil's Mato Grosso state. According to information released by the Catholic Church's Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), the two men were found dead on a road that divides the properties falsely claimed by local landowners Silmar Kessler and Sebastiao Neves de Almeida known by the nickname Chapeu Preto (Black Hat). Another rural worker heard the shots and quickly gathered other residents to find the bodies on the road; the Military Police did not arrive at the scene until late in the evening.
A group of some 3,000 indigenous people gathering to mark the official opening of a new reserve are trapped in the remote village of Maturca, Roraima state, after its bridge burned down. Authorities say settlers opposed to the creation of the Raposa Serra do Sol reserve deliberately burned the bridge, which is the only access into Maturuca. Brazil agreed to create the reservation in April, despite strong opposition from local landowners and settlers. Some 3,500 people had gathered at Maturuca for the celebrations. (BBC, Sept. 23)
An important victory is reported from the Brazilian Amazon, which has been the scene of recent violence linked to struggles for control of land and resources. From the BBC, April 15:
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has signed a decree creating an Amazonian Indian reserve the size of a small country in northern Brazil. The reserve, Raposa Serra Do Sol, is called "the land of the fox and mountain of the sun" by the 12,000 Indians who live there. Its hills, rivers and forests cover 17,000 sq km (6,500 square miles).
Dionisio Ribeiro Filho, 59, was shot in the head at the entrance to the Tingua forest reserve, just outside Rio de Janeiro, after he defended it from poachers and illegal palm tree cutters. His death followed the Feb.
In the global outcry over the slaying of US nun Dorothy Stang, a local crusader for the Amazon rainforest and its threatened peasants and Indians, Brazil's President Luis Inacio da Silva signed a decree Feb. 17 creating two vast protected areas in the forest. Part of the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) initiative sponsored by the World Bank and World Wildlife Fund, the new protected area includes the 8.3 million-acre Terra do Meio Ecological Station and the 1.1 million-acre Serra do Pardo National Park in the eastern sector of the central Amazon. "Conservation in the Amazon takes a giant step forward with this decree," said Carter Roberts, WWF's chief conservation officer. (WWF press release, Feb. 18)
In a case being compared to that of Chico Mendes, the Amazon defender killed in 1988, US missionary Sister Dorothy Stang was shot dead by unknown assailants at a remote jungle settlement near Anapu in the Brazilian state of Para Feb. 12. Stang, 74, of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, had been a campaigner for human rights and forest protection in the Amazon for three decades, and had reported receiving numerous death threats from land speculators and cattle barons.