Obede Loyla Souza, described by the AP as a “landless peasant activist”, was shot dead in his residence located in the Amazon state of Para. Souza and other landless peasants helped organize a settlement in 2008 called Esperanca, (Hope in Portuguese), in an area of unclaimed farmland. They farmed on small plots of land and faced constant danger from illegal loggers in the area.
Local land rights groups suspect that Souza’s death may be linked to his work. The local Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) claimed that Souza recently received death threats after he confronted several loggers illegally chopping down trees. The CPT further denounced that on the day of his death a suspicious “van with tinted windows” entered Hope. Yet one local police official claimed that Souza’s murder was not linked to the land conflict but instead due to an “internal motive.”
The recent spike in deaths of environmental activists (including two eyewitnesses to one of the murders) has caught the attention of the federal government. According to Brazzil Magazine president Dilma Rousseff ordered this month the deployment of soldiers into several Amazon states including Para and Rondonia where the activists have been murdered. Yet it may be a short-term solution for the long-term problem of land rights in Brazil as mentioned by Amnesty International (AI):
“As Brazil’s economy continues to boom and rural land is increasingly being sought for agriculture and other development, the authorities must ensure that human rights abuses against local communities come to an end,” said (AI researcher) Patrick Wilcken.Image- Reuters via The Guardian (“Confiscated illegally logged timber floats down the Guam river delta in Pará, Brazil.”)
“The authorities must complete the region’s land-reform process and bring long-term security to the threatened communities.”
Online Sources- Brazzil Magazine, Amnesty International, MSNBC, InSight Crime, Folha.com, BBC News