RIO DE JANEIRO – An official of a group demanding land reform in Brazil’s Amazon region was killed by unknown assailants, the Para state police said Thursday.
Pedro Alcantara de Souza, a leader of the Fetraf family farmers association, was slain Wednesday night while walking with his wife on the outskirts of Redençao, where he served on the city council from 1982-1996.
He was shot four times in the head and died on the spot as the killers sped away on a motorcycle.
As part of his work with Fetraf, De Souza last year led a group of families in an occupation of an estate to press authorities to expropriate the property and divide it among landless peasants.
De Souza received death threats as the occupation sparked conflict with other peasant factions who wanted the land for themselves.
Police said De Souza’s slaying bore the hallmarks of a murder-for-hire.
Bitter disputes over land have put Para in the top rank of Brazilian states when it comes to rural violence, with some 1,200 people killed during the past 20 years in conflicts among land barons, settlers and peasants, according to human rights activists.
De Souza’s murder coincided with the postponement of the retrial of a wealthy landowner accused of ordering the 2005 killing in Para of U.S. nun Dorothy Stang, a staunch advocate for landless peasants in Amazonia. EFE