Nine people killed in Brazilian land dispute massacre

The organization said there was a network of armed gangs under the command of ranchers


Afp April 22, 2017
Brazil police. PHOTO: AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian police collected the bodies Saturday of nine people killed by masked attackers in a remote area after what a rights group called a massacre by big landowners to expel small farmers.

A police spokesperson for Mato Grosso state said the toll in the killings in western Brazil had risen from five to nine and that all victims were men. Earlier reports suggested that children had also been killed.

"The bodies are being taken for post-mortem examinations and civilian and military police are at the scene investigating the crime," the spokeswoman told AFP.

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The slayings, which police say were carried out by "hooded attackers," took place on Thursday in a deeply isolated area of farming country called Gleba Taquarucu do Norte, near the border with Bolivia. The settlement has no cellphone signal and is reached either on foot or by boat.

A human rights group said that the incident was the latest in a long series of assaults ordered by ranchers, using heavily armed gangs, to clear out small-scale farmers from the lucrative agricultural zone.

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"Gleba has been subjected to conflicts and violence for more than 10 years. Other murders and attacks have already taken place there," said the Pastoral Land Commission, which is linked to the Roman Catholic church, and acts on behalf of the rural poor.

The organization said there was a network of armed gangs under the command of ranchers "who use terror to get the small producers to leave the area."

According to the CPT's latest annual report, 61 people were killed in land conflicts in Brazil last year, the highest number since 2003.

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