Land conflicts continue to rise in Brazil according to Church report

The Brazilian Bishops’ Conference’s Land Pastoral Commission (CPT) releases its latest report on rural violence in Brazil showing an increase of land grabbing conflicts affecting several Indigenous communities, especially in the Amazon region.

By Lisa Zengarini

Rural violence linked to land disputes continues to be on the rise in Brazil with its epicenter in the Amazon region, a recent Church study says.

47 people killed

According to the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference’s Land Pastoral Commission (CPT), which releases a report on rural conflicts every year, 47 people were killed in 2022 as a result of such conflicts. 18 of them were indigenous persons.

Victims also included human rights advocate Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips who were murdered in June 2022 for drawing attention to the historic assault on Brazilian Indigenous communities and the rainforest, that has unfolded under the tenure of former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

16 percent more incidents affecting more than 181,000 families

The CPT study recorded 1,572 cases, over 16 percent more than in 2021, affecting more than 181,000 families. Over half of such incidents happened in the Amazon, where most killings, 34, also took place.

All kinds of violence associated with land disputes grew in Brazil last year. One family out of six suffering from such conflicts faced armed thugs hired by large landowners or other people claiming ownership of land. The number of attempted killings was 123, and 206 death threats were reported.

One of the most significant findings of the CPT study was the increase in the Federal Government's involvement in land conflicts, which rose from 10 to 16 percent.

Increase of attacks involving pesticides

Another important finding was the significant increase of attacks involving pesticides used to drive away families from their lands, with dramatic consequences on the environment.  According to the report, in 2022, 193 people were directly attacked with pesticides, which is over 170 percent more than the previous year.

More than a quarter of the conflicts involved Indigenous peoples who for decades have been suffering from the invasion of their lands, especially during the tenures of former Presidents Michel Temer (2016 -2019) and Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022). 

The latter even incentivized land invaders in the Amazon and criticized Indigenous groups for “having too much land.”

Increase of violence under Bolsonaro’s presidency

CPT annual reports have shown that rural violence, especially against indigenous communities, constantly increased under Jair Bolsonaro's presidency.

The Brazilian Bishops’ Missionary Indigenous Commission (CIMI) has also confirmed that Indigenous peoples continue to be victims of land-grabbing violence, as well as of illegal mining by the so-called “garimpeiros”, polluting their ancestral territories, which in some cases has caused major humanitarian crises.

Indigenous peoples targeted by land-grabbing violence

Their plight came to international attention in January this year when hundreds of cases of malaria and starvation among the Yanomami people were reported.

The Brazilian Bishops, who have constantly advocated for the rights of the original peoples of Brazil, reacted with a strongly-worded statement expressing their indignation and reiterating their solidarity with all the indigenous communities in Brazil. "The pains of every indigenous person also belongs to the Church, which, according to its doctrine, the magisterium of Pope Francis, teaches the importance of indigenous peoples in the preservation of the planet", the statement said.

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26 April 2023, 15:52