[10/14/05] Launching of International Campaign Against Rural Violence in Brazil


For further information contact:
Emily Goldman, Senior Program Officer, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial: (202) 463-7575 ext. 235; goldman@rfkmemorial.org

Washington, DC, 14 October 2005 – The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights (CHR) and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) are hosting a week of events headlined by 2001 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Laureate Darci Frigo, a Brazilian human rights lawyer and land-rights activist at the forefront of the struggle to end the violence against the landless of Brazil.

Brazil is marked by a grave disparity between land haves and have-nots. Less than 3% of Brazil’s population owns two-thirds of the country’s arable land. Data from the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), the social justice arm of the Brazilian Catholic Church, reveal that between 1985 and 2002, there were 1,280 recorded murders in Brazil of rural workers, lawyers, union leaders, and religious workers aligned with the struggle for land reform. Due to widespread impunity, very few have been arrested or prosecuted. Thus, of these murders, only 121 have been prosecuted in court. Of those who ordered the murders, only 14 were charged, resulting in seven convictions. Of the intermediaries, four were charged, resulting in two convictions. Of the 96 gunmen tried, 58 were convicted.

These issues recently made headlines with the February 2005 assassination of Sister Dorothy Stang, an Ohio-born nun who spent 39 years in Brazil advocating on behalf of the rights of landless peasants. Mr. Frigo and his colleagues are among the principle actors in Brazil demanding that justice be done in her case, and the innumerable others who have died before and after her murder.

On 18 October, the CHR and WOLA will host the launch of the International Campaign Against Rural Violence in Brazil at WOLA (1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW Suite 200) from 6-8 pm. Mr. Frigo and his colleagues will participate in a Congressional briefing hosted by Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA) on 20 October from 3 - 4:30 p.m. on Capitol Hill, location to be announced by early next week. Additionally, they will testify on rural violence in Brazil before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, at the OAS, on 21 October from 4 - 5 p.m., at 1889 F Street, NW.

The International Campaign Against Rural Violence in Brazil will work on a number of fronts:
• Provide periodic briefings and written updates on human rights in Brazil
• Press the US Congress, the Brazilian Congress, and Lula Administration to take robust measures to end impunity
• Press for justice in the Stang case
• Press the US Congress to promote rule of law/justice initiatives in land-access cases
• Press the US Congress to review current World Bank/Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) land reform programs

Event Participants:
• Mr. Darci Frigo, lawyer and founder and co-coordinator, Terra de Direitos (Land/Earth Rights)
• Mr. José Batista, lawyer, Comissão Pastoral da Terra (Pastoral Land Commission)
• Mr. Jim Cavallaro, lawyer and former executive director of Justiça Global (Global Justice)
• Mr. Carlos Gaio, coordinator of international relations, Justiça Global (Global Justice)