Protests are taking place all over Brazil against the killing of Sister Dorothy Stang last Saturday. in the interior of Pará state. The American missionary is considered a great fighter for human rights and for the peasants in the Amazon.
Her funeral in the São Rafael Training Center in Anapu, state of Pará, was attended by leaders of the social movements that have traveled to the region to follow developments in the case, including Rolf Hackbart, president of INCRA (National Institute for Land Reform), Nilmario Miranda, the National Secretary for Human Rights, Marina Silva, Secretary of the Environment, and Dom Xavier, the Vice-President of the CPT (Pastoral Land Commission).
The National Forum for Land Reform and Justice in the Countryside, composed of 45 groups and Brazilian social movements, February 15, published a letter that blames the death of the missionary on slowness in the process of enacting and reform.
According to the letter, “the absence of actions on the part of the state is obvious in Pará. No matter what the federal government announces, its local actions in Pará have always been rhetorical and lacking the appropriate firmness, allowing the reactions of interest groups that act in a coordinated way with either omission or support from the state government of Pará.
“From the massacre of Eldorado dos Carajás to the killing of Sister Dorothy, the policies of the government of the state of Pará have been in defense of the interests of the land-grabbers, lumber interests and large land owners”.
The social movements demand the punishment of those responsible for the killing and ask for the adoption of urgent measures to protect all the defenders of human rights who are at risk of death in Pará.
Twelve congress people who are members of the Congressional Commission on Land and Urban Reform also published a note asking for an end to violence in the countryside.
Sister Dorothy Mae Stang, 73 years old, North American missionary, was killed Saturday morning (02/12/05) when she was walking with two rural workers to a meeting of the Sustainable Development Project – Hope, located 40 kilometers from Anapu in the west of Pará.
Sister Dorothy had been facing death threats from the landowners in the region since she began supporting the rural workers in 1997.
Dorothy Stang had been named an honorary citizen of Pará and on December 10 she received the Humanitarian of the Year award from the Brazilian Bar Association for her work helping the local rural workers.
“End violence in the countryside!
“Long live Sister Dorothy!
“We, congressional members of the CPMI da Terra (Congressional Commission on Land and Urban Reform) add our voices to those raised in protest against the brutal killing of Sister Dorothy Stang, and call for a thorough investigation and punishment of the guilty parties.
“Even more: we once again demand from the Federal Executive and State branches the most energetic measures to implement land reform and an end to impunity, the only means to prevent the violent situation in the countryside of Pará, which has been going on for many years, from continuing to claim victims.
“This CPMI has been following the case of Anapu – where Sister Dorothy was killed – since May of last year, when members of the Commission visited Pará for two days. We held a public hearing in Altamira, a nearby municipality, on the 27th. We took the opportunity to take testimony from Sister Dorothy and from the rural workers of Anapu, who were already under threat at that time.
“The Commission verified on the spot that the violence in the region was out of control. At the beginning of June 2004, Sister Dorothy spent a few days in Brasília, where members of the CPMI da Terra exerted an effort to alert the authorities and ask for assistance with the situation in Anapu. The problem was taken to the Federal Government on the 3rd of the month, through the people in the office of the Ministry of Justice, since unfortunately the Minister himself did not receive the Commission.
“The death of Sister Dorothy Stang is another chapter in the bloody history of struggle for land in Brazil. In Pará, illegal lumber cutters, large land owners, the land-grabbers and those who exploit slave labor are vying with the rule of democracy and law and are making the state the leader in deaths occurring from conflicts over land.
“This situation must end. For years the CPT, the organizations of rural workers and other groups in civil society have been denouncing the existence of a list of those marked for death. The federal and state governments are aware of this list and up to now nothing or very little has been done about it.
“The responsibility of the state government of Pará is obvious because while the civil and military police and other authorities responsible for the land issue in the state received numerous statements about threats against rural workers they took no concrete action to protect the victims.
“On the contrary, besides not fulfilling their duty in carrying out land regulation and implementing land reform, the state government adopted the tactic of criminalizing the landless workers.
“Sectors of the Judicial branch also contribute to the exasperation with the picture of violence because they are conniving with impunity, they are weak in the criminal proceedings against the executors and the persons who order the executions, and in the processes of expropriation and discrimination, but they are quick to repossess properties and to respond to other complaints of the land-grabbers, lumber interests, and large land holders.
“Yesterday it was Chico Mendes and Eldorado dos Carajás; today it was Sister Dorothy, tomorrow there will be other fighters for the people who will have their lives cut down by greed and illegality.
“This pattern of violence will only be changed with the firm presence of the State, by means of urgent measures by the federal and state governments to confront criminality involving the lands of this region, such as:
1) Guaranteeing protection for persons who are threatened with death;
2) Proceeding with the speedy geo-referencing of properties, legalizing the lands in the region;
3) Proceeding with the discrimination and collection of public lands to be destined for the property owners;
4) Carrying out true, massive and broad land reform;
5) Installing state and federal police departments and other public organs in the region;
6) Punishing in an exemplary way those who ordered and carried out this and the other crimes that have occurred, since impunity nourishes criminality.
“The greatest homage that we could pay to Sister Dorothy would be to promote sustainable development in the region, to attack the root of violence and confront impunity. The CMPI must join the efforts that are being carried out along these lines.
“Signed: Congressman João Alfredo, Reporter (PT/CE), Congressman Adão Pretto, (PT/RS), Senator Ana Julia Carepa, (PT/PA), Congressman Anselmo, (PT/RO), Senator Eduardo Suplicy, (PT/SP), Senator Fatima Cleide, (PT/RO), Senator Geraldo Mesquita, (PSB/AC), Jamil Murad, (PCdoB/SP), Congresswoman Luci Choinacki, (PT/SC), Senator Serys Slhessarenko, (PT/MT), Senator Siba Machado, (PT/AC) and Zé Geraldo, (PT/PA).”