Friday, February 18, 2005

Human Rights Worker Shot in Brazil

Brazil has sent 2000 troops into the Amazon rain forest to counter death squads blamed for killing an American nun and rural workers settled on land coveted by loggers and ranchers. US missionary Dorothy Stang, slain on Saturday by hired gunmen near the town of Anapu. Two rural workers have been killed near the town of Anapu, 400km from Belem, in the last four days. A union leader was shot dead by gunmen on a jungle road near Parauapebas in south-eastern Para on Tuesday.

The troops will work with local police for ten days in an effort to beef up protection. However, local activists say that the effort is too little, that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva only sent in the troops following world outrage at Stang's death and US pressure to find the killers.

"The day they leave, it'll go back to normal," said Tomas Balduino, president of the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), a Catholic human rights group Stang worked with.

The violence has been going on for decades as loggers and ranchers have tried to drive off settlers on the land. The problem has been aggravated by a program that promises to settle 400,000 landless families by 2006. Those pledges encouraged peasants to occupy areas and lobby for land to be demarcated as reserves. Stang helped them.

The province of Para, an area twice the size of France, has Brazil's worst rural violence, slave labor and illegal logging. Hundreds have people have been killed in the last two decades while few people are ever punished for crimes.


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