The number of deaths due to conflicts in rural areas increased more than 1000% last year, according to a report released by the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT, in Portuguese) on April 18. The List of Rural Conflicts in 2021 also points out a considerable rise in human rights violations, evacuations, executions, and massacres.
Killings increased by 75%. Most of the cases took place in the states that are part of the Legal Amazon, which recorded 28 crimes of this kind, 80% of the total. Of the 35 murders recorded nationally last year, 33 victims were men, and two were women. The states of Rondônia, Maranhão, Roraima, Tocantins, and Rio Grande do Sul registered most of the crimes.
The victims were indigenous individuals, landless workers, land squatters, quilombo people, rural settlers, small landowners, babassu coconut breakers, leaders, and supporters of the struggle for land.
In two of the incidents, more than three people were killed in the same criminal act. The CPT considers cases like these as massacres. The murder attempts also grew, as well as death threats, with 132 recorded cases. Torture cases jumped from nine in 2020 to 13 in 2021.
In 2020, CPT already had recorded the highest number of conflicts in its history. According to Andreia Silvério, coordinator of CPT, last year's rise occurred on an already very high base, which multiplies the alert.
“The year 2021 reaffirms a trend CPT has been recording since at least 2015 and 2016. It was when there was a political break in Brazil. Since that period, we have been recording a rise [in violence cases] related to conflicts and the involvement of families”, she says.
The substantial increase in murders and deaths due to conflicts indicates a reality of insecurity and lack of rights for families and rural leaders. “These are not direct murders. They are caused by the conflict situations and conditions in which families find themselves, [being that it is] a result of the struggle processes they wage to defend land, territory, and environment in Brazil”, says Silvério.
Terror in rural areas
The main perpetrators of violence are private agents who call themselves farmers, agro-militias, groups of hired gunmen, and the State. According to Andréia Silvério, the CPT highlights that there has been an increase in progress on land already classified as indigenous territories, conservation units, quilombola lands, and areas for agrarian reform.
“It has always been [happening] to appropriate natural resources. There are activities such as mining and logging. These are not actions led only by economic groups, businessmen, big farmers, and land-grabbers. In a certain way, they are also led and
encouraged by the federal government attitudes and legislative actions of state governments”, she highlights.
Among last year’s massacres, at least three indigenous individuals from the isolated people known as Moxihatëtëa were slaughtered in the Yanomami Land, Roraima. In Rondônia, three people who lived at the Ademar Ferreira Camp were killed in August 2021.
“Most conflicts happened in the Legal Amazon. We know that the agricultural, mining, farming and cattle border advances precisely over these territories and have links with the attempt to appropriate areas that are still conserved", points out Silvério.
Among the 100 people detained in 2021 due to rural conflicts, there are even records of apprehension of children (the Brazilian Child and Adolescent Statute uses the term “apprehension” when a child is accused of an offense). Almost one-third of the total cases also occurred in Rondônia. Last November, the country’s Military Police arrested 30 farmers from the Escurão Camp. These agents destroyed houses, stole equipment, and beat some of the Camp's inhabitants.
It is the first time that a CPT report presents information on the victims’ sexual orientation and gender expression. Five LGBTQIA+ people were assassinated, imprisoned, intimidated, and tortured.
Following the trend of violence rising in the countryside, the incidents of slave labor also increased in 2021: 169 people were rescued in conditions analogous to slavery in rural areas. The number represents an increase of 76% compared to the previous year.
Destruction of life conditions
Despite recommendations from international bodies and the National Council of Justice, 2021 recorded more than 22,000 families evicted from the countryside. During the covid-19 pandemic, in the most critical phase of the global health crisis, the eviction rate increased by 12%.
Last year also saw an increase of 18% in the total number of families expelled from where they lived. More than 550 had to leave their lands and houses. “The attempts to destroy ways of life mean the destruction of houses, gardens, and plantations, which are often the means of subsistence for these families. These are the areas responsible for food production in Brazil”, says Andréia Silvério.
“These families are mostly responsible for bringing a sociocultural identity, especially to the Amazon. Unfortunately, this process of occupation has a very colonial character. They bring a stereotypical view image and try to impose a market logic on the lifestyle of these populations, which directly impacts these communities”, she adds.
CPT partial data for this year amounts to 14 murders in rural areas conflicts. Silvério points out the lack of investment in the agrarian reform, the dismantling of the rural people protection bodies and environmental crimes inspection bodies, and the lack of political will from the federal government.
“There is a total abandonment of the agrarian reform policy as it was initially conceived, based on the 1988 constitution. Agrarian reform in Brazil, in fact, has never
been carried out. But this policy, which minimally allowed for the distribution of land and meeting the demands of these communities, has been abandoned in recent years", adds the CPT coordinator.
Edited by: Felipe Mendes