Rural Families In Northern Brazil At Risk Of Violence

June 22, 2011

While violence in Northern Brazil is frequently ignored, local families have no other option but to live in fear.  People are being threatened and guns are being shot.

At this very moment 40 families in the settlements of Assentamento Santo Antônio Bom Sossego and Acampamento Vitória, both located in the state of Tocantins, are being threatened by eight gunmen hired by a local farmer.

On the night of June 6, the gunmen fired shots over the encampment. On June 4, gunmen were overheard arguing about whether to carry out an execution. On May 29 one gunman told a resident: Lá vai morrer gente (people are going to die there). The rural workers have also complained of men with torches walking around the perimeter of the settlements. Five community members are said to be on a hit-list of people targeted by the gunmen.

The threats have been constant since October 2010. On October 3, gunmen burnt down several shacks in the Assentamento Santo Antônio Bom Sossego. On October 16, rural worker Gabriel Vicente was shot dead. Representatives of a national NGO working on land issues, the Catholic Land Commission (Commisão Pastoral da Terra, CPT), have received a series of death threats for their support for these communities.

The Assentamento Santo Antônio Bom Sossego was created in 2003 by the federal body responsible for land reform, the Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (INCRA); and landless workers settled the Vitória encampment nearby. In 2005, farmers claimed land in the area and began harassing these communities. Last year, illegal loggers moved into the region.

Despite a series of complaints, police have not carried out adequate investigations into the threats. In a meeting involving federal prosecutors, INCRA, the CPT and community members, it was agreed that the farmers should be asked to leave the area, and ten additional families of local farmers should be resettled there.  But these measures have not been implemented.

Take action by contacting the local authorities expressing your concern for the safety of the 40 families in these communities. Together we can make a difference!