Protestors close Vale railway to demand the killers of rural activists be imprisoned
By João Márcio (Marabá, Pará)
After an overnight vigil, peasant movements, students, teachers from the Federal University of Pará (UFPA) and settled families of the MST sealed off the Carajás railway bridge this Thursday. The bridge stands over the River Tocantins in Marabá.
A freight train belonging to the multinational mining company, Vale, was unable to move between 5am and 10am.
As well as demanding punishment for the killers of extractivist leaders and married couple, Maria do Espirito Santo da Silva and José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva, protesters called for the State to take more measures to counter the violence meted out by powerful landlords against social activists.
Both were killed on the morning of the 24th May at the Agroextractivist Settlement Project, Praia Alta Piranheira in Nova Ipixuna, southeastern Pará.
According to Evan Medeiros, lecturer of rural education at UFPA, “the struggle is for justice, and as such the people have mobilized in memory of the thousands who have fallen in the fight to defend the Amazon region.”
The Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) issued a statement yesterday in which it described the killings as a kind of “agro-bandidtry”. Local loggers and ranchers, keen to expand their cattle ranching areas, end up resorting to such methods as a means of eliminating opponents.
“The National Coordination of the CPT reiterates the State's responsibility for this crime. People's lives and our natural environment become worthless if they are seen as obstacles to the much vaunted 'economic growth'”, the statements reads.
Below is the CPT statement.
“If we stay silent, the forests will cry”
The National Coordination of the CPT, gathered in Goiania for one of its regular meetings, has reacted with sadness and indignation at the news of the double murder of the couple Maria do Espirito Santo Silva and José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva, who were killed on the morning of May 24th at the Extractivist Settlement Project, Praia Alta Piranheira in Nova Ipixuna, southeastern Pará.
This is yet another reflex of agro-banditry and just one more death from the list of the threatened. The couple had their names recorded and disseminated by the CPT on account of the death threats they had been receiving (Cláudio in 2009 and 2010, and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo in 2010). The list of threats, as well as the list of murders that had taken place in the countryside between 1985 and 2010, was handed over to the Ministry of Justice last year. No action was ever taken however.
“José Cláudio and Maria do Espírito Santo were driving by motorbike to the town center about 45km away. The couple were shot at several times by two gunmen armed with a shotgun and a 38-caliber revolver while crossing a poorly-maintained bridge. The gunmen had concealed themselves in some undergrowth at the head of the bridge while waiting in ambush for the couple to pass by. Both were killed at the scene. The gunmen cut off one of José Cláudio's ears and took it as proof of the crime”, reads a statement from the Maraba CPT, who attended the crime scene.
José Cláudio and Maria do Espirito Santo were pioneers in the creation of the extractive reserve of the Praia Alta Piranheira Settlement (created in 1997). Due to the high value of timber, the reserve was constantly being invaded by loggers and by ranchers who sought to expand cattle-ranching activities in the region.
Our indignation rose further still with a report written today (May 25) by the newspaper, Valor Econômico, which described the scene in the Chamber of Deputies when deputy José Sarney Filho announced news of the couple's death. According to the report, the names of the two victims were booed at by some ruralist deputies and by people present in the Chamber galleries who had come to observe the vote on the Forest Code. This event illustrates precisely how violence against workers and rural workers is treated.
The National Coordination of the CPT reiterates the State's responsibility for this crime. People's lives and our natural environment become worthless if they are seen as obstacles to the much vaunted 'economic growth'. It is an idea that has been championed by successive federal governments, legislators of the National Congress who pass laws that promote environmental destruction, and by the judiciary who have proven to be extremely efficient in meeting the demands of the rural elite but far slower in trying the crimes committed against rural workers and their allies. The violence feeds off this guarantee of impunity.
Paraphrasing the Gospel, we cannot be silent in the face of such barbarism, because if we stay silent, the forests will cry. (Lc 19,40).
Goiâna, 25 May 2011
National Coordination of the CPT
Translated by Eric H.