Source: Front Line Defenders
Marcio Rodrigues dos Reis was a land rights defender who helped reorganise land occupied by landless workers, where he lived, after the camp was attacked and destroyed by armed hitmen. The lands are located at the Santa Maria farm, which is an area of public lands seized by a local agribusiness farmer. As a reprisal for his leadership, Marcio was imprisoned in 2017 for nine months and again in 2018 for five months, under trumped up accusations of carrying a gun without permission and of usurping land (known as ‘esbulho’) made by the agribusiness farmer himself.
Reis was a landless rural worker and in 2016 had taken part in the occupation of a farm in Anapu, along with dozens of families. The occupants demanded possession of the territory and claimed that it had been illegally taken from the Brazilian State by a local farmer.
The governmental land agency recognized their claim and filed a lawsuit in order to recover the farm, but a higher court’s final decision is still pending. After the peasants’ movement showed no signs of ending, Reis was charged with several crimes and imprisoned for nine months in 2017.
Anapu has been one of the epicenters of violence against the rural poor in the Amazon in the past few decades and is the city where the American-born nun Dorothy Stang was murdered by gunmen working for local ranchers in 2005. Local CPT coordinator, Father José Amaro Lopes de Sousa, was accused of being the leader of the occupation and was also arrested for 92 days in the beginning of 2017. Amaro worked for 15 years with Stang defending landless peasants and the local environment and is considered her successor.
“Reis was the main defense witness in the case against Father Amaro. Both the local ranchers and the police pressed him to testify against Father Amaro, so he would be convicted. But Reis never did so and kept his initial version that Father Amaro is innocent,” said José Batista Afonso, the priest’s lawyer, who is also a member of the CPT.
According to Afonso, the evidence gathered by the prosecutors against Amaro is “weak” and he will probably be found innocent in the first half of 2020, when a decision is scheduled to be announced. If Reis had changed his story at the police’s urging and testified against Amaro, it would have effectively silenced the priest and put an end to his work in the region, Afonso claimed.
“That’s why they hated him so much,” the lawyer told Crux.
After his release, Reis was advised to leave Anapu for security reasons. He spent almost one year out of the city, but decided to come back a few months ago, as he thought there was no longer a risk to his life.
According to the CPT, there’s a criminal organization in the city of Anapu formed by local ranchers who have stolen State lands and count on the complicity of the police.
On 4 December 2019, land rights defender Marcio Rodrigues dos Reis was killed on a road close to Anapu. Reis, 33, was working as a motorcycle taxi driver when he was stabbed by a passenger in his neck. The murderer hasn’t been found.
He was the main defence witness in a criminalisation case against human rights defender Padre Amaro. Marcio is the 15th rural worker killed in the area since 2015.
Shortly after, on 9 December 2019, state councillor Paulo Anacleto was also found dead. The councillor was actively engaged in the investigations into the killing of Marcio Rodrigues dos Reis.