Dorothy Stang, 76, a Catholic missionary from the US has been murdered Saturday by a hitman (pistoleiro) in the city of Anapu, in the southwest of the Amazonian state of Pará. The American nun, who lived in Brazil for 20 years, was hit by three bullets while walking in the street.
Stang had complained about receiving repeated death threats due to her work in defense of the Amazon forest and the landless workers from the area.
She was the director of an agrarian development project backed by Incra (Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária – National Institute for Settlement and Agrarian Reform), an organ from the Brazilian federal government.
Several government officials condemned the killing. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva sent ministers and police teams to carry out a “rigorous” investigation.
Nilmário Miranda, the special secretary for human rights, declared that “The case is very grave and represents a serious blow to human rights in Brazil.”
He also informed in a TV interview that two pistoleiros had already been identified and that there were other people involved in the killing.
Brazil’s Minister of Justice, Marcio Thomaz Bastos, announced he had asked the federal police to immediately start a thorough investigation. Bastos recalled that he had attended a few day ago a testimony by Sister Dorothy in which she talked about threats against her.
These threats, according to the nun were made by loggers in the area, who opposed her work and that of Ibama, the Brazilian Institute of Environment.
“We cannot admit impunity in a case like this”, said Bastos.
The president of the Workers’ Party (PT, the party of President Lula), José Genoino, said that the government had to act “tough and fast ” in response to the crime that he qualified as “unacceptable”.
And he added: “If it is proven that the crime was due to economic interests, the government should suspend all negotiations that are under way.”
Just on February 4, the Brazilian government yielded to loggers in the state of Pará who had blocked roads and rivers in protest against prohibition of logging in the region. Loggers blocked for one week the BR-163 road and the access to the Tapajós river, an Amazon tributary.
According to O Globo, a Rio daily, representatives of the loggers had threatened the government while affirming that “blood would flow” if the government continued to forbid logging in the region.