Brazil: landless leader assassinated

Sugar-cane cutter Cícero Guedes dos Santos, a leader of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Campos dos Goytacazes, Rio de Janeiro state, was shot dead by unknown gunmen Jan. 26 as he was riding his bicycle home from work. The attack came near an abandoned sugar plant which MST members have occupied amid a legal battle between the landless and the heirs of its deceased owner. A judge ruled last year that the plant and its lands of some 3,500 hectares were “unproductive” and should be expropriated. The heirs are appealing the decision. The MST, who had occupied the land for six years before being evicted by police in 2006, launched a second occupation in November.

The Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) says threats on the lives of land activists in Brazil have jumped from 125 to 347 between 2010 and 2011, although the actual number of killings related to land conflicts fell slightly in this period. (BBC NewsExame, Brazil, Jan. 26)