The Stangs’ Open Letter and Challenge to Brazil’s President Lula

The murder of our sister Dorothy Stang – martyr, Pará citizen of the year, and BOA Human Rights Awardee – by ruthless, lawless ranchers and loggers continues to be a horrible shock to all of us eight siblings.

And to thousands of Notre Dame Sisters around the world, CPT, MST, CNS, and the millions of law-abiding citizens who love Brazil.

Dorothy Stang was a great gift from God to your country. She believed in you, your government, your laws, your people, and the great Amazon Forest. Dorothy devoted 39 years to Brazil’s poor, landless, and marginalized.

At 73, she still fought for the right of the poor to enter into your great Brazilian economy – only to be ridiculed by lawless loggers, pistoleiros, the mayor and radio station in Anapu, local police, your corrupt officials in INCRA and IBAMA, and the consortium of ranchers who many feel paid the pistoleiros to murder our sister.

Although she received many death threats the last years of her life, our sister continued courageously along her path of justice and truth, never giving a second thought to the monumental task she had set for herself.

The Senators commissioned to investigate Dorothy’s murder recommended that her case be federalized. Joining their call were the Stang family, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and international community.

We were shocked and dismayed on June 9 to hear of the unanimous decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice denying federalization. If this is not the kind of case that merits federalization, it is entirely unclear what case would, given the long history of impunity in Pará.

Can there be any doubt that hers is a human rights abuse case? What proof has Pará provided to us that justice will be served? What support is Pará giving to the poor and landless? We challenge you to show us that you put up the best possible arguments to press for federalization of our sister’s case.

Immediately after our sister’s death, you promised the world to tackle the impunity in Pará. While we were heartened to hear of your commitment to punish our sister’s assassins and set aside land for the landless and conservation areas, we have seen few concrete actions.

In April, the Anapu radio station reportedly said that Dorothy was evil and that people’s attempts to have their land certified would be stopped. In February at the Anapu city hall in front of your five Senators who were investigating Dorothy’s murder, a representative of the loggers and ranchers accused you, Mr. President, of killing our sister. Is this not impunity?

Words are cheap, Mr. President.

Our sister gave her life for an equitable land reform that would provide the poor and landless with a viable way to put food on their tables and empower them as key actors in their own development and full participants in Brazil’s democracy.

Dorothy sought structural change that would target the roots of poverty, hunger, and social injustice – seeking to dismantle the inequality that robs the landless of dignity and any hope for a better tomorrow. Why should only the lawless feel they have rights?

Dorothy wrote to us of her hopes that you would visit Anapu to learn about her work with Sustainable Development Projects. Her dedication and love for Brazil sustained her; while she never gave up hope that an equitable land reform would come to pass, she died hoping her courageous death would push you and your government to bring freedom to the poor and disenfranchised in Brazil.

Will you, Mr. President, who came from the poor, be the one to help them enter into the economy of Brazil as free people and not as slaves of the brutal ranchers and loggers?

Mr. President, you have not used your considerable influence to deal with the corruption in INCRA and IBAMA. Our sister told us that she had great hopes for those organizations.

Nor have you sought the vital funding needed from the World Bank and other major donors to make possible the land reform advocated by the CPT, CNS, and MST. Because you have not met these challenges, you will not realize your campaign pledge to settle 430,000 landless families.

In the name of our murdered sister, we challenge you to work with the social movements and take a strong stand before the World Bank and major donors, requesting the needed funding for the land reform supported by the CPT,
MST, and CNS that empowers the poor and landless.

Dorothy Stang gave her life to your people, in order to see systemic changes and new models of growth take hold. She is a martyr, a saint, and a great hope to your people, not someone to be mocked by merciless, corrupt people who lie in wait to destroy the Amazon Forest and enslave the poor and landless.

We are counting on you to take a critical stand and do what is right. She loved the Brazilian people and was not afraid to speak up for what is right and just. Can we not expect the same from you?

We have great hope in you, your government, and your people. We look forward to meeting with you when you have met these challenges.

David Stang
Marguerite Stang Hohm
Barbara Stang Richardson
Thomas Stang
John Stang
Mary Stang Heil
Norma Stang
James Stang

This open letter appeared in Portuguese in the Rio’s daily O Globo on August 24, 2005.


Brazil Government Responds

President of INCRA (National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform) Rolf Hackbart reacted to the criticisms of the relatives of the nun Dorothy Stang regarding the government’s delay in implementing agrarian reform in Pará.

Hackbart says that all of the measures announced by the government immediately after Dorothy’s assassination at the beginning of the year are in progress. He says that the georeferencing of 600,000 hectares of land in the region of Anapu was scheduled to start September 1st.

According to Hackbart, 25 teams from INCRA have been selected to do the surveying, with the support of the Army. After that, the government will have the requisite conditions to identify illegally-owned lands in the region and with that, accelerate the land reform process.

Nevertheless, the president of INCRA says that, since the assassination of the nun, 630 families have been settled and 340 of those are already receiving technical assistance.

The government also, according to him, opened up a line of credit of 340,000 reais (US$ 139,768) for the families in the region, but the money was not handed out because two associations of small farmers have not yet formalized their bank accounts.

“We are going to meet this year’s goal and we are looking to meet the general goal next year,” says Hackbart.

The government’s goal is to settle 115,000 families throughout the country this year and 430,000 families before 2006.


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