On Saturday 12 February, 73 year old Sister Dorothy Stang, an American nun and Brazilian citizen who defended the Amazon national heritage from land grabbers was cruelly assassinated.
Sister Dorothy had lived for more than 30 years in the Amazon and had dedicated nearly half her life to give a voice to rural communities, defending their land rights, and fighting for a development model that would not result in forest destruction. She tirelessly insisted that a strong presence of the Government in the remote regions of the Amazon was necessary.
The murder of Sister Dorothy was a tragedy, but not unexpected. Because she peacefully fought to defend the Amazon, she received death threats many times and was unjustly accused of inciting violence. She also denounced the participation of the civil and military police in the expulsion of small landowners from their land by farmers and landgrabbers in the region.
The State of Pará has the biggest rate of assassinations related to land disputes in Brazil. Between 1985 and 2001, almost 40 percent of the 1237 deaths of rural workers in Brazil occurred in Pará. It is still the champion state of deforestation, illegal logging, land grabbing, slavery and plays a leading role in both environmental abuse and human rights violations as documented in the Greenpeace report “Pará: State of Conflict”, launched in October 2003.
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