Seven of the 10 countries with the highest number of killings of environmental activists in 2020 are in Latin America. In Brazil — 4th on the planet’s list and 3rd in Latin America — there were 20 people killed, half of whom are part of traditional peoples, such as indigenous peoples, quilombolas and riverside dwellers. (See list of Brazilian victims below).
10 countries with the most deaths of environmental activists in the world:
- Colombia: 65
- Mexico: 30
- Philippines: 29
- Brazil: 20
- Honduras: 17
- Democratic Republic of Congo: 15
- Guatemala: 13
- Nicaragua: 12
- Peru: 6
- India: 4
The data are from a report by the international organization “Global Witness” released on Sunday (12). In the world, 227 people were murdered that were linked to environmental issues and land rights last year. In the previous document, referring to 2019, the number was lower: 212 victims.
On the planet, 165 victims who were killed for defending their land and/or the environment were in Latin America. O country that tops the list is Colombia, with 65 people murdered — one more person than in 2019. According to the document, a third of these attacks occurred against indigenous peoples and black people in the country. Almost half of them were against small agricultural producers.
“In many remote areas, paramilitary groups and criminals have increased their control through violence against rural Colombian communities, and there is a lack of state action to protect them. Activists seeking to protect the land and the environment are increasingly in the sights of these groups, with a particular risk for those who are in indigenous lands”, points out the document.
According to “Global Witness”, the main motivation for the deaths of activists in the world is logging. The report managed to confirm 23 cases of murders for disputes related to the activity. They took place in Brazil, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines and Mexico, which contain the highest number: 9 victims. Agribusiness and mining are linked to 34 deaths – 17 each.
Among the 30 people murdered in Mexico is water resources defender Óscar Eyraud Adams, a member of the Kumiai people. He was killed after opposing industries that contribute to water shortages in Baja California, the border with the second-name state in the United States. Óscar is among the indigenous people killed for defending their own land in 2020: 30 people in total, eight in Brazil.
Who are Brazilians?
In Peru and Brazil, more than 70% of murders related to the defense of the environment and the land took place in the Amazon region. There were 20 Brazilians, eight indigenous and two riverside dwellers. The causes: land dispute, defense of agrarian reform, fight against illegal logging and mining, agribusiness, protection of water and dams.
Below is a summary of who the victims are:
- Celino Fernandes and Wanderson de Jesus Rodrigues Fernandes: father and son, the peasants were attacked inside a residence in Arari, about 120 km from São Luís, in Maranhão. The state government said that “this is a region of widespread conflict, involving disputes over land and animal husbandry.”
- Fernando Ferreira da Rocha: the lawyer who worked in the criminal area was killed in Boca do Acre, municipality of Amazonas. The Brazilian Bar Association – Rondônia Section released a note of regret and confirmed that the case is treated as a murder.
- Raimundo Paulino da Silva Filho: the former councilor was murdered in Ourilândia do Norte, southeast of Pará. Paulino was a rural worker and acted as a community leader. It was affiliated with the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB).
- Virgínio Tupa Rero Jevy Benites: at the age of 24, the indigenous person was murdered in Vila Ponte Nova, municipality of Diamante do Oeste, in Paraná. Indigenous Missionary Council (Cimi) informs that the Avá-Guarani people continue to receive threats and that another indigenous person was attacked with extreme violence.
Indigenous leader Zezico Guajajara was found dead in the Araribóia Indigenous Land in Arame, Maranhão. — Photo: Disclosure/Cimi
- Zezico Rodrigues Guajajara: killed by gunfire, he had a strong role in defending the traditional territory of the Guajajara indigenous people. As a leader, he was against the clearing of the forest and was denouncing the growing presence of invaders and the theft of wood.
- Ari Uru-I-Wau-Wau: killed after several death threats, Ari worked in the surveillance group of the Uru-eu-wau-wau indigenous people in Rondônia. The function was to register and report illegal logging within the village.
Ari Uru-eu-wau-wau was found dead in RO — Photo: Reproduction/Kanindé
- Damião Cristino de Carvalho Junior: A guard at the Intervales State Park, in Sete Barras, in the interior of São Paulo, he died in a confrontation between the Environmental Police and miners. The murder took place during an operation to find and destroy the clandestine gold mine.
- Antônio Correia dos Santos: the quilombola leader was shot three times at home in southern Bahia. According to the state’s Public Defender, “since 2014, the quilombola community of Barroso has been in conflict over land ownership with the Varjão community, formed by small farmers in the area.”
- Marcos Yanomami and Original Yanomami: the two young indigenous people, aged 20 and 24, were murdered in Roraima. The victims were shot in the middle of the forest by armed miners.
- Carlos Augusto Gomes: the rural worker was shot dead in the Emílio Zapata camp in São Pedro da Aldeia, in Região dos Lagos, in Rio de Janeiro. The Civil Police’s main line of investigation is that the conflict was motivated by a dispute over land in the area.
- Kwaxipuru Kaapor: A 32-year-old indigenous man was found dead on the side of a road near the boundary between the Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Land and the city of Centro do Guilherme, in northwestern Maranhão. Ka’apor ethnic leaders believe the killing was a vengeance by drug traffickers because a marijuana plantation had been destroyed during a raid carried out by the Indians.
- Josimar Moraes Lopes and Josivan Moraes Lopes: victims of a wave of violence and clashes in the Abacaxis River region, in Nova Olinda do Norte, 134 km from Manaus. They are two Munduruku indigenous people.
- Mateus Cristiano Araújo, Anderson Barbosa Monteiro and Vanderlânia de Souza Araújo: Vanderlânia and Anderson were a couple and they had a son, Mateus, when the crime occurred. The three riverside dwellers are victims of the wave of violence in Rio Abacaxis.
- Raimundo Nonato Batista Costa: according to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), the rural worker was found dead in Gleba Campina, a village in the municipality of Junco do Maranhão (MA). Land is the target of land grabbing and records of agrarian conflicts are recurrent.
- Claudomir Bezerra de Freitas: He owned an area in rural Rio Branco. The fence that divided the land ended up burning during a fire. After rebuilding the boundary, the neighbor would not have agreed and ended up arguing and, in sequence, shooting at Freitas.