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CONTAG Calls for Immediate Action to Halt Violence against Brazilian Rural Workers

Posted to the IUF website 05-Dec-2005

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In an statement issued November 22, the National Confederation of Agricultural Workers of Brazil (CONTAG) has called on the federal government to take immediate action in response to the escalating wave of violence against rural workers, particularly in the states of Mato Grosso, Pernambuco and Par�. In November alone, the following trade unionists or supporters of the rural labour movement were murdered:

- In Par�, municipal counselor Edson Coelho Lara, who was close to the rural workers� movement, was assassinated on November 4 in the municipality of Itupiranga.
- On November 8, Domingos dos Santos Silva, coordinator of the occupation of the Mineira estate, was murdered with complete impunity in Marab�. On November 21, it was the turn of Pedro Laurindo da Silva, coordinator of the Cabo de A�o occupation, in the same municipality.
- In Pernambuco, the victim was Anilton Martins, a worker in the municipality of Itaiba, who was shot 18 times. Martins had personally gone to the Pal�cio do Planalto (the seat of the government) nearly 15 months ago to ask President Lula for police protection.
- In Mato Grosso, Vanderlei Macena and Mauro Gomes Duarte were murdered on November 21 in the municipality of Nueva Guarita. They were part of a group of 350 families that have been claiming a piece of land in that region since 2003.

According to CONTAG, "The perpetrators are protected by the governments of these states. According to reports by local unions, the hired assassins commit their crimes openly and impudently, under contract of the large landowners."

CONTAG leaders have called for a meeting with the Minister of Justice, Marcio Thomaz Bastos, and are demanding that federal troops be sent immediately to these states and remain there permanently, or until the climate of war and terror has been ended.

CONTAG notes that "The federal government admittedly acted very quickly in the investigation into the murder of missionary Dorothy Stang (also in Par�), perhaps because of that crime�s international repercussions. It arrested the assassins in record time, by Brazilian standards. However, the work was only half done. With the investigation halted, the individuals who ordered the crime continue to be protected under a cloak of impunity."

CONTAG calls for the reopening of the investigation in this case, and effective measures by the federal government to bring to trial those accused of murdering other rural workers.