On the evening of the 6th July Ademir de Souza Pereira took his car down to the local car wash. He was talking to the attendant when two gunmen pulled up alongside him and shot him. He tried to run but was hit twice and fell. The killers then took the time to deliver the final shot before escaping. Ademir was a prominent member of the Liga dos Camponeses Pobres (LCP) which advocates for the rights of small farmers and landless peasants.
Ademir, his wife and three colleagues had travelled to the state capital, Porto Velho, for a meeting with a senior official of the Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (Incra) which deals with land reform. Ademiro was shot while his wife was attending the meeting. This killing has brought to eleven the number of killings of land rights activists in the state of Rondônia so far this year. Last year, in 2016, Rondônia led the killings of HRDs in Brazil with 19 killings, mostly involving rural workers or leaders who worked to defend the right to land.
According to Afonso Chagas, a volunteer with the Pastoral Land Commission, Rondônia, Ademir was part of a long-standing occupation called Terra Nossa where six people have been killed in the last two years.
The next day, 07 July, Rosenildo de Almeida was leaving a local church when two men pulled up on a motor bike and shot him dead. Rosenildo was also involved in the land occupation on the hacienda of Santa Lucia in Pau d’Arco. On the 24th May 10 other members of the LCP who were taking part in the same land occupation were shot dead in Pau D’Arco, in what was one of the most brutal killings to date. The arrest of 13 police officers (11 military police and 2 civilian police) to prevent further interference with the crime scene or intimidation of witnesses, underscores the importance of the state taking firm action to investigate links between the police and local large landowners.
These killings are part of consistent pattern of killing of land rights activists and human rights defenders in Brazil. According to the Brazil Human Rights Defenders Network forty-three human rights defenders have been killed so far this year. These killings take place against a background of police and official indifference and a complete failure by the government either to prevent the killings or to bring the perpetrators to justice. Of particular concern at the moment are attempts by the government to undermine and limit the powers of FUNAI, the indigenous rights agency, which in theory protects the land rights of indigenous peoples. According to one FUNAI official, who spoke recently to The Guardian on condition of anonymity, “You have to be careful what you say. Those who position themselves in the defence of indigenous people are strongly attacked.”