The Brazilian rancher accused of ordering the murder of an American missionary has been sentenced to 30 years in prison, reports the Associated Press (AP).
Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura on Monday received the maximum sentence for the killing of Dorothy Stang, a 73-year-old nun who was gunned down in 2005 while fighting for the rights of small farmers. Jurors in Belem, the capital of the Amazon state of Pará, reached the decision after 15 hours of deliberations.
Dorothy Stang, 1931 – 2005
It was the third trial for Moura for the crime. He was initially found guilty but was then acquitted in an automatic retrial. The acquittal was overturned last year on a technicality, according to the AP.
The trial was widely seen as a test of the perceived impunity of powerful landowners in the Brazilian Amazon. More than 1,200 people have been killed in land conflicts in Brazil over the past 20 years yet none of the organizers of the killings had gone to prison until now.
Stang, a nun from Ohio 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 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 two thousand armed troops into the state. Later Brazil established several protected areas in contested forests and proposed a land-use permit system for selling concessions to loggers who agreed to set side land for settlers and indigenous groups.
20 years ago the Amazon lost its strongest advocate
(12/22/2008) Twenty years ago ago today, Chico Mendes, an Amazon rubber tapper, was shot and killed in front of his family at his home. He was 44. His assassination in Xapuri, a remote town in the Brazilian state of Acre, would serve as a catalyst that led to the birth of the movement to protect the Amazon rainforest from loggers, ranchers, and developers. But the movement has stalled. Some would even say it has failed: since 1988 more than 348,000 square kilometers (134,000 square miles) of Amazon rainforest have been leveled.
Dorothy Stang fought for social equity in the Amazon: editorial by David Stang, Dorothy’s brother
(06/07/2007) 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.