Violence against activists continues in the Brazilian rainforest

A trial begins in Brazil tomorrow for two men accused of murdering Dorothy Stang, a U.S.-born nun who had spent 30 years in the Amazon opposing illegal ranching and logging that razed the rainforest and displaced peasant farmers. But despite promises from Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva after her death that he would rein in violence in the rainforest, contract killings in the state of Para are on the rise. A human-rights group reports that 18 rural workers and human-rights activists have been killed there this year, and 15 in 2004. After Stang was gunned down in February, Lula sent 4,000 troops to Para to control gunmen hired by powerful logging and ranching bosses, but some say the government hasn’t kept enough people on the ground to protect rural activists and peasants. “The death threats, the assassinations, the land invasions go on, while promised land reforms aren’t happening,” said Henri des Roziers, a Catholic priest and human-rights lawyer in Para.