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Dorothy Stang fought for social equity in the Amazon

Dorothy Stang fought for social equity in the Amazon

Amazon nun’s brother speaks about her murder:
Dorothy Stang fought for social equity in the Amazon
David Stang
June 7, 2007

Dorothy Stang, 1931 – 2005

Editor’s note: Dorothy Stang, an American nun who spent more than 30 years fighting for land rights for poor settlers in the Amazon, was murdered by a contract killer in February 2005 in the Brazilian state of Para. Stang, 73, was shot six times with a revolver as she read from the Bible.

Stang’s confessed killer said he was hired by Amair Feijoli da Cunha, a rancher. He and a partner were offered 50,000 reais (around $25,000) to kill Stang.

Stang, a member of the Order of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was working with the Pastoral Land Commission, a Catholic Church group that lobbies for land reform in Brazil and fights for land rights for the poor, when she was gunned down.

Stang’s murder was a tipping point in the heated battle between the rural poor and large landowners in the state of Para. The federal government responded to her killing by sending several thousand armed troops into the state. Later Brazil established several protected areas in contested forests and proposed a land-use permit system for selling concession to loggers who agreed to set side land for settlers and indigenous groups.

Murder is not a pleasant place to start an article. Destruction of enormous amounts of virgin forest also does not help improve ones feelings and thoughts. Leaving out millions of people and talking about only the rights of thousands is pretty discouraging if you wish to be transparent, progressive and see a future for a beautiful country with enormous potential.

My sister Dorothy Stang was murdered because she wanted the poor to enter into the economic life of Brazil. She built over twenty six schools, filled them with children, found teachers and hoped that these children would be a progressive part of Brazil. She developed a fruit cooperative so that women could bring in their Amazonian Fruit and be paid money as the cooperative found outlets for their products. Selling the fruit to the schools was one possibility but the mayor of Anapu stopped the idea. She also then helped over 25 years to develop two huge sustainable development projects, developing leaders and people who could live together and sell their products in the open market. This seemed like a person who was very interested in the “economy” of Brazil. When you are poor working cooperatively is your only security.

Brazil has over 18 million homeless people. The largest gap between the rich and the poor of any country in the world is in Brazil. You cannot leave these people out of any argument without putting your head in the sand. I have read the Interview on John Carter printed on June 7th 2007 in I thought it was an excellent article. I think that John is doing what is right and the plans of bringing “together” ranchers to maintain forest on 80% of their land, to reforest hills and cliffs to control erosion, encouraging the use of contours, no till terracing, and finally fire control. My hand goes out to him. He also is trying to control corruption and increase the economy that brings in true wealth. However, this does not solve the problem of the millions of people who already live in the forest, who are being murdered with no justice and those who are alive are being gouged, their land stolen from them or enslaved and raped by the corrupt ranchers, and corrupt polititians. My sister, Dorothy Stang was very interested in bringing the poor into the economy of Brazil but the ranchers over the years have killed over 750 farmers in the past 30 years. Since Dorothy’s murder in February of 2005 another 30 farmers have been murdered by ranchers.

I have just returned from the State of Para. I was at the trial, May 15th 2007, of a rancher called Bida who was sentenced to 30 years in jail for murdering my sister. When asked where he lived he said, Plot 55. Plot 55 is where he murdered my sister. Plot 55 is where the Esperanza Government Project of Sustainable Development exists. Plot 55 is where two weeks before the trial Government Agents swooped down on this Plot 55 and chased off 1500 head of his cattle which were illegally grazing on this Government Project. How can a man in jail, in a high profile case, have the power to illegally graze his cattle on government land? There is still another rancher, much richer and more powerful who still needs to be tried who is called Regivaldo. Will he ever be tried?

While traveling in the Amazon, I traveled to a town called Xinguara. While traveling I saw ranch land that was dead, all the nutrients of the land gone, and a for sale sign, showing the rancher who wanted to sell his “dead” land. I was told that many ranches in the area are now dead. The people who owned the land were absentee landlords who lived in Rio and Sao Paulo. They did not care I was told. In this area several ranchers have been indicted for slavery. I did not see these issues being discussed by John Carter. Ranching does not put to work many people and those who are hired most are poorly paid or not paid at all. Ranching in large areas of the Amazon destroys the very sensitive soil.

Finally, the economy for the poor that my sister and the farmers tried to make productive was discouraged by the mayor, the city council, the ranchers and the loggers. Why should the farmers now trust the ranchers who enslave them, murder them, bribe the politicians. Why should the farmers trust IBAMA and INCRA, many of whom have been indicted for corruption, who can’t even build roads for them so that they can sell their crops? My sister was directly murdered by two pistoleiros who are paid by the ranchers. These pistoleiros swagger all over the forests. They are hit men who control peoples’ lives and terrorize the poor into slavery.

I believe what John Carter wishes to do is right. However, the article leaves out many many issues that I have just stated. John saying that the economy is where we need to be is exactly what my sister thought. However she was murdered for that great thought.

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