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Friday, October 21, 2016
Brazilian landowner faces charges over killings
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¬†One of the most powerful landowners in Brazil's Minas Gerais state has been charged with hiring hitmen to murder five landless farmers. The farmers were killed on a camp run by Movement of the Landless (MST), an organisation supported by Christian Aid, CAFOD and other church agencies. They died when hooded gunmen set fire to the huts of 100 families living there last November. In a highly unusual move, Adriano Chafik, a major landowner in the region which lies between Rio and Brasilia, faces charges of employing the gunmen responsible for the massacre, in which most of the huts in the camp were also burnt down. The MST camp was erected to protest against unequal distribution of land in the region. The Brazilian government has also acted swiftly to announce that 568 hectares of the huge estate where the landless were camped will be redistributed amongst the 100 families from the community affected by the massacre. A recent ruling in Belo Horizonte, the state capital, deemed that a large tract of Adriano Chafik's land would be expropriated, thus converting the 'Promised Land' camp into a permanent MST settlement. Rural violence is prevalent in the north and north-east of Brazil, and perpetrators generally escape unpunished. In mid February 2005, Dorothy Stang, a 74-year-old Catholic missionary who defended the right of Brazil's small farmers and landless people for over two decades, was gunned down by contract killers at another settlement in a remote area of the state of ParŠ. Although in this case, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva sent ministers, police teams and the army to the area to bring her killers to justice, large landowners continue to exert power by their own rule of law in many remote rural areas, and most cases of rural violence go unreported. Source: Christian Aid
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