Brazilian Land Rights Activist Killed By Gunmen

Street scene from Belém, the capital of the Brazilian state of Pará.
Street scene from Belém, the capital of the Brazilian state of Pará.
Street scene from Belém, the capital of the Brazilian state of Pará.
Street scene from Belém, the capital of the Brazilian state of Pará.

Today in Latin America

Top Story — A Brazilian land reform activist was killed only hours after a delay in the trial of a man accused of planning the murder of a rain forest activist in 2005, The Associated Press reports.

Pedro Alcântara de Souza, a union leader from the state of Pará, was shot by two men on motorcycles as he was a riding a bicycle with his wife. Police allege that Alcântara de Souza was killed due to his political activities.

The 2005 murder of the rain forest activist, an American nun named Dorothy Stang, took place in the same state as Alcântara de Souza’s murder. The alleged mastermind, rancher Vitalmiro Moura, is facing his third trial for the murder.

In the first, he was convicted of the crime, then found innocent and then the ruling was overturned due to a technicality. On Wednesday, a judge ordered a delay in the trial after a request from the defense.

State officials have no suspects in custody for Alcântara de Souza’s murder, but have sent a team from the state capital, Belém, to investigate.

Land rights disputes between wealthy ranchers and poor farmers has lead to over 1,200 murders in the past 20 years, which has worried activists and officials who fear that these killings intimidate the rank-and-file members of the land reform movement.

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Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • The suspect in the murder of three people linked to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez said the husband of the consulate worker, an El Paso County Jail guard, was the target of the assassination.
  • Mexican investigators found the body of a missing 4-year old girl under the mattress of her bed in her parent’s home. The cause of death was ruled asphyxiation and her mother is the primary suspect.

Caribbean

  • Nearly 40 survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti were released from an immigration prison, where they have been held by I.C.E. for over two months. Their release came on the same day that The New York Times reported that the survivors were imprisoned.
  • Top U.S. and Cuban officials met on Wednesday at the international donors conference at the United Nations to coordinate medical aid to Haiti.

Central America

Andes

  • Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela will travel to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru beginning April 4 for a week long trip focused on issues including including security cooperation, economic competitiveness, democratic governance and human rights.
  • The International Monetary Fund said Colombia’s policy framework protected it from the global economic downturn and should have a “generally positive” outlook in 2010.
  • Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit Venezuela, Brazil and Chile in April on the heels of a summit on nuclear safety in Washington from April 12 to 13.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales Thursday signed an agreement for a $300 million Chinese telecommunications satellite.

Southern Cone

  • Henrique Meirelles has decided to stay as chief of Brazil’s central bank until the end of the year, at the urging of President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva. The decision ends a nine month rumination on whether to seek governmental office.
  • The biggest anti-British protest in years is expected today over British oil-drilling in the Falkland Islands. Demonstrators will mark the anniversary of Argentina’s brief takeover of the Islands in 1982.
  • Chile’s peso rose 0.5 percent on Thursday. Copper, Chile’s largest export, also rose, to its highest in 20 months.
  • Authorities in Paraguay are concerned about the increase in patients afflicted with dengue fever. Total cases confirmed between November and March is currently 2,511.

Image: Jay Woodworth @ Flickr.

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