Monday, May 30, 2011

Murder in Pará

On this map, the area delineated in red is the State of Pará.
As you can see, it's in the far Northeastern part of the country.

Pará, and the state to the west of it, (Amazonas) are Brazil's two largest.
And they have long been a battleground...

between those attempting to preserve the Amazon rainforest...

...and a consortium of greedy ranchers and loggers set upon destroying it.

They make Pará a very dangerous place for anyone who "stands in the way of progress". 

Chico Mendes, a rubber tapper, tried it.

So did Dorothy Stang, an American nun.
Both were murdered.

Last week, it was the turn of Zé Claudio and Maria da Silva, a husband and wife team of environmental activists.
Ambushed near the little town of  Nova Ipixuna, in the southeastern part of the state, they were forcibly removed from their vehicle and shot.
And then one of José Claudio’s ears was cut off – the calling card of a hired gunman.

There is no one better to tell his story than Zé Claudio himself:
The recording was made just six months ago.
In it, he predicts his own murder.

What he doesn’t say is that he’d sought police protection, but was never able to get it.

Now that Zé Claudio and Maria are gone, the question activists in the Amazon are asking themselves is:
Which one of us is it going to be the next time?

Because none doubt there will be a next time.
A report compiled by Brazil’s Catholic Land Commission lists 154 people who’ve been killed between 2006 and 2010.
And 250 more still living under the threat of murder.

All because they’re trying to prevent activities which are illegal under Brazilian law.
But which the government, by and large, is either unable or unwilling to put a stop to.

You thought the gun-toting frontier of song and legend was dead?
Think again.
It's alive and kicking in Pará.

Leighton - Monday


  1. That's enough to make me choke with rage and doubt the value of the human species. Some swine truly should be taken up in helicopters and dropped into the fires they paid someone to start.

    Okay, I'm breathing deeply.

  2. I've heard you speak so passionately about the grace, beauty, peoples, and wild energy of Brazil that I'm sure there's no one sadder or more outraged than you at how myopic and feudal the powerful continue to be in maintaining their grip over a country deserving of far greater sway in the world community.

  3. I wanted to thank you for this great post!! I enjoyed every little bit of it, I have you bookmarked and waiting for all the new stuff you post.

  4. Unfortunately, the powerful of Brazil already have "far greater sway in the world" Jeffrey.
    Vale bought Inco, and won the longest strike in Canadian mining history; bringing third world labour relations to the first world. With, I might add, the assistance of our government, which sold the company to Brazil instead of a Canadian bid, and which would not intervene to end the strike. Liz

  5. What a horrific story, and what a paradoxical country Brazil is. One of the joys I have in reading your books is learning about a country I knew very little about. The sorrowful thing is that so much beauty can exist with so much horror. This is true of too many countries.

  6. Greed, power and corruption make for such a horrible combination...

  7. It is hard to know what to say, but our political squabble in Denmark seems very insignificant in comparison.

  8. Porsche 993 Turbo

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.