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Killing the Messengers: Rising Violence Against Journalists and Indigenous Leaders Defending the Amazon

By: 
Gabriel Leão

In February 2005, the body of 73-year-old Sister Dorothy Stang was found on the side of a remote dirt road 33 miles from Anapu, Pará, in Brazil’s AmazonBasin. Seven bullets pierced her body. The first hit her in the abdomen, then after she fell face down, the killers fired bullets to the back and four to the head.

The masterminds turned out to be Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura and Regivaldo Pereira Galvão, wealthy farmers who opposed the U.S. missionary for creating the first sustainable development program in the Anapu region of the Amazon on lands formerly exploited by large landowners and loggers that had been confiscated by the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA).

The missionary’s death drew world-wide attention to the violence that environmental activists are exposed to around the globe, specifically in the Amazon region. It wasn’t until April 16, 2019,14 years after the assassination–that Pará’s Civil Police finally arrested Galvão, who was condemned to 30 years in 2010.