On May 15, wealthy landowner Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura was given the maximum sentence, 30 years, for being one of the masterminds of the February 2005 murder of US-born nun Dorothy Stang, a 73-year-old defender of the Amazon rainforest and landless people. It is the first conviction of a member of Pará state’s landed elite in a wave of killings of peasant leaders and forest defenders in recent years.
French priest Henri Burin des Roziers said the verdict “is very important.” But “it would be overly hasty to come up with an optimistic analysis” said the priest and lawyer, who has worked for over 15 years with the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) in Xinguara, in the southern part of Pará state, helping peasants gain legal title to their land and fighting slave labor. “We have to wait to see if Sister Dorothy’s case means a real change or was only an exception brought about by the enormous international repercussions that it had because she was from the United States,” said Roziers. Stang was a naturalized Brazilian citizen and had lived in the country for 23 years. Forty percent of the 1,237 murders linked to land disputes in Brazil between 1985 and 2001 took place in Pará. (IPS, May 16)