Solidarity visit in Brazil

News 05.04.2013

On the first day of the visit, the RLA delegation visited the Head Office of MST in Pará and heard first hand about the situation in Brazil and in Pará. The State of Pará is the second largest Brazilian state and is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. Though this is rapidly changing as the region accounts for more than a third of total deforestation in Brazil due to illegal deforestation and land occupation, mostly due to cattle ranching and soya farming.

Later that day, the delegation also visited historically important MST camps, and were impressed by how vibrant and productive these settlements are.

On the second day, the delegation met at the University of Pará for a press conference. Leaders of MST andCPT outlined the situation in Pará, the threats and killings that had taken place, and highlighted the case of the murders of José and Maria Cláudio in 2011.
In the afternoon around 300 people gathered in the lecture room to share very powerful and moving testimonies and speeches. “Not one minute of silence for those killed. But a whole lifetime of struggle.” was heard throughout the day.

While the debate took place, participants received the tragic news that MST leader Fábio dos Santos Silva was brutally executed in Bahia state, with 15 bullets being fired at him. This killing further serves to underline the extremely high risk human rights defenders and activists face in Brazil.

On April 3, the third day of the visit, the two-day trial of the murdered environmental activists Jose Claudio Ribeiro and María do Espirito Santo began. Angie Zelter reports that the trial is taking place because of immense public pressure, and that the fact that police had arrested suspects to bring to trial was itself a very rare occurrence in Brazil.

The RLA international delegation was able to observe the trial, and also meet with several of the activists protesting outside, many of whom were themselves victims of death threats and intimidation.

On the second day of the trial, the court reached its decision. The jury had decided that there was not enough evidence to convict one man. The other two were found guilty and given 42 and 45 years prison sentences. Angie Zelter calls the verdict a partial victory, as the underlying causes of the murders and the destruction of the environment are not being dealt with.

The RLA delegation is glad they were able to be present to show solidarity with the embattled people and add their voices to the growing call to end the impunity of the rich and powerful behind the assassinations.

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