Community leader Paulo Sérgio Almeida Nascimento, 47, was shot to death in the early hours of Monday (Mar. 12) in rural Barcarena, outside Belém, state capital of Pará, northern Brazil. Nascimento was a member of an association of indigenous people, communities made up of descendents of slaves, and people of mixed indigenous descent and was known for bringing environmental crimes to light.
The victim is said to have been shot by a man as yet unidentified, a few hours after Nascimento came home in the district of Vila dos Cabanos, occupied by members of the landless movement. Witnesses claim he was shot around 3:30 am, after getting up to go to the bathroom, built outside his wooden house. The perpetrator ran into the woods.
The murder is being investigated by the local police, aided by the homicide division in the capital. Eight of Nascimento’s closest acquaintances are to be heard. Yesterday, agents went to the scene and talked to people who lived in contact with Nascimento or were around in his last hours to try to retrace the victim’s steps and find out what happened.
Nascimento and other members of the association had for some time been questioning the operations conducted by companies like Norwegian mining firm Hydro AluNorte, whose toxic waste polluted nearby rivers last month.
In a note, Pará prosecutors confirmed that members of the community association in January this year complained they were threatened by military police agents. After the complaint, state authorities were requested by the prosecution service to take the necessary action to ensure that those who were threatened were safe.
State Secretary for Public Security Luiz Fernandes Rocha said that the request by prosecutor Armando Brasil included mobilizing police forces for some of the community leaders in Barcarena who claimed their houses had been invaded by military police.
Rocha said he told the prosecutor that the requests for protection on behalf of those under threat should have been filed with another agency, the State Secretariat for Justice and Human Rights, tasked with sending their case for consideration to the Council of the State’s Program for the Protection of Human Rights Advocates. Rocha claims no such request has ever reached the secretariat.
The military police have launched an inquiry on the claims that the military agents threatened community leaders and broke into their homes.
In a note, Hydro AluNorte said it condemns any violent act and denied any link between its operations and the acts committed against the population, local communities, and their leaders.
*Renata Martins, reporter with Rádio Nacional, contributed to this article.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira