Moral Low Ground


Peasant Activist Obede Loyla Souza Shot Dead in Brazilian Amazon

A peasant activist who fought the illegal deforestation of Brazil’s Amazon forest was shot dead outside his home in northeastern Brazil last weekend. According to the Guardian, 31-year-old Obede Loyla Souza, a member of the landless Esperança settlement in Pará state, had been involved in an argument with representatives of loggers who were illegally cutting down protected Brazil nut trees in the area.

“There is in this region a really dangerous group of loggers,” Hilario Lopes Costa, a coordinator for the watchdog group Catholic Land Pastoral, told the Guardian. “He had a fight with one of them over the cutting of these trees, and he was a marked man from then on.”

In fact, there is a list with the names of about 125 activists whose lives are in danger. Souza was apparently not on that list. He had been farming a small plot on uncultivated farmland occupied by members of the landless peasants movement in 2008, along with more than a hundred other families, while waiting for a government land redistribution program to validate his claim.

It is a harrowing existence for these landless peasants, especially the activists among them. More than 1,150 have been killed in the last 20 years. Just last month, a husband-and-wife environmental activism team were assassinated in Pará. Four activists have been slain in the last month, as well as one witness to two of the killings.

Souza died to stop this… (Photo: Daniele Gidsicki)


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