On 14 June 2016, Clodieldo de Souza (26), a tribal leader and human rights defender of the Guarani-Kaiowá people was shot dead during a raid purportedly carried out by paramilitary forces in the indigenous settlement Tey Jussu. The killing took place in the state of Grosso do Sul (MS) located in the Brazilian municipality of Caarapó.
According to local sources, the killers were allegedly acting on orders from local landowners. Although the territory belonging to the Guarani-Kaiowá people is constitutionally protected, local landowners feel particularly threatened by the actions of the indigenous people which they see as the obstacle to the development of large scale farming, namely soya bean and agribusiness projects.
According to the Catholic run Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), an organisation which has been advocating for the rights of indigenous people in Brazil, since August 2015, more than 20 attacks by paramilitary groups against Guarani-Kaiowá settlements have been registered in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.
CIMI demands that the Ministry of Justice take immediate and effective measures to stop the paramilitary attacks against indigenous communities in Mato Grosso do Sul.
This latest killing fits into the consistent pattern of killings of indigenous and land rights activists. In its annual report for 2016, Front Line Defenders reported that more than half of the killings of HRDs in the Americas are of HRDs working on environmental, indigenous or land rights issues.
Front Line Defenders is closely following the cases of other threatened indigenous leaders in Brazil, most recently the cases of Dr. Tonico Benites, Cacique Babau (also known as Rosivaldo Ferreira da Silva) and Mr. Paulino Terena. These defenders have been the target of death threats, assassination attempts, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrests and arbitrary detentions as a direct consequence of their work to protect the human rights of their communities.
Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the killing of Clodieldo de Souza on 14 June 2016 as well as the systematic persecution, harassment and killing of indigenous human rights defenders. Front Line Defenders calls upon the government of Brazil to bring to justice those responsible for the murder of Clodieldo Souza as well as to take action to protect all other HRD’s who have been attacked. Effective action will enable HRD’s to continue their work without the fear of retaliation or reprisals.