Murders in the Amazon to be added to hundreds of unsolved crimes
The first murders in the current spate of violence took place on May 24 – the day the Brazilian National Congress was voting on proposed changes of Brazil's Forest Law, which would have the effect of slashing forest protections and provide extensive amnesties for illegal clearing.
Married extractive workers Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva and José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva, community leaders in the extractive settlement Praia Alta Piranheira, in southern Pará state, were killed in an ambush.
The area has been rife with vicious conflicts involving land grabbers, loggers, extractive workers, and farmers. Maria and José Cláudio denounced rogue logging activities and were being threatened with death.
Four days later (on 28th May), the police found the corpse of farmer Herenilton Pereira dos Santos. Herenilton is supposed to have witnessed the crime. Covert investigations on his death are being conducted.
On the previous day, farmer Adelino Ramos, aka Dinho, was shot to death while selling vegetables in Vista Alegre do Abunã, in Rondônia. Adelino was whistleblowing about illegal logging and was being threatened by large property owners. Civil Police has indicted a man as the perpetrator, but has not named the masterminds.
The fifth victim was Obede Loyola Souza. The corpse of this rural worker was found on Saturday 11th June in Pacajá (PA), with a hole in his ear, supposedly cause by a rifle.
According to the Civil Police force, Obede’s death could be associated to disputes over land between the residents themselves in the Esperança camping site, where he used to live. However, according to activists from the Catholic Church, the crime could be associated to the rogue logging business.
The Federal Government was taken off-guard by the murders, but its response was simply to send 30 police officers from the National Squad to the area and resolve that the Federal Police would take part in the investigations.
Crimes such as these usually go unresolved in Brazil. Over the past ten years, 219 people were murdered in Pará’s jungles. Out of this total, only four cases made it to the courts.
WWF-Brazil repudiates violence in the rural areas and the murder of rural and extractive workers.
“As a Brazilian, I feel embarrassed and sad when I hear such news and because these people are getting away with it. It is unacceptable that the State will not ensure physical integrity of its citizens, and that people threatened of death have to seek to be always in evidence as a way of trying to protect themselves", explained Carlos Alberto de Mattos Scaramuzza, WWF-Brazil’s Head of Conservation.
“While crimes of this sort continue to go unpunished, this kind of vicious violence will continue to take place, thereby denting the reputation of Brazil’s history. The masterminds and perpetrators should be identified and punished swiftly and strictly”, he added.