Source: Front Line Defenders
Paulo Silva Filho was a trade unionist, former city councillor in Ourilândia do Norte, and the leader of Ocupação 1200 (Occupation 1200). He was a well known land rights defender who helped coordinate struggles for land rights in the South of Pará.
The Killing & Investigation
On 22 February 2020, Paulo Silva Filho, known as Paulinho do PT, was killed in Ourilândia do Norte, in the South of Pará, in the Brazilian Amazon region.This is the latest in a series of killings and attacks against families living on Agrarian Reform resettlement lands of the 1200 Farm (Occupation 1200), of which Paulinho do PT was a leader.
The increase in violence against defenders in the region follows the introduction of state and federal government policies that legitimise land grabbing and violence in rural areas.
On the morning of 22 February 2020, unidentified individuals killed Paulo Silva Filho with a shot to the head, in front of the defender’s shed in Ourilândia do Norte.
There are strong indications that his killing was in reprisal for his human rights work. Paulinho had previously reported threats against him to the Prosecutor’s office and the Civil Police.
Attacks targeting human rights defenders in Pará, already at historically high levels, have further increased in recent times. Alexandre Coelho Furtado Neto, also of Ocupação 1200, was shot in the chest on 19 October 2019, during an ambush.
Families living on lands that are part of the resettlement process of the Agrarian Reform Programme live under threat of constant attacks, killing, torture, captivity, arson, property attacks, poisoning by aerial spraying of pesticides and shooting of homes and vehicles. In this context, attacks against camp residents have become common.
During the night of 14 April 2019, four armed men shot the houses of the 70 families who live in the public area of Farm 1200 to intimidate them into fleeing their homes. The land workers and human rights defenders of Ocupação 1200 have lived and worked to subsist there since 2006, in spite of a series of violent evictions.
Since the beginning of Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency, Brazil has seen a number of government policies that intensifies conflict over land. The President has legitimised violence against defenders and rural workers by seeking to increase access to guns by landowners, and dismantling structures and institutions that safeguard the right to access land.
Moreover, at a state level, this situation has been aggravated by the sanctioning of Law 8.887/2019 by governor Helder Barbalho on 8 July 2019. This bill restricts access to land by social movements while favouring land grabbing and endangering environmental protection.