At age 45, Nilcilene Miguel de Lima is an Amazonian exile in the Amazon. She’s far from her family and from the land where she still dreams of farming her six thousand coffee trees and banana fields. Since escaping an ambush, she lives under the influence of drugs, hidden and frightened. She longs to return home, to the Project for Sustainable Development (PDS) of Gedeão, in Lábrea, in the Amazon, but this could cost her life. There is some news that is always repeated among the ones she gets from there: if she comes back, she will die.

A gunman hired to kill Nilcilene keeps the threat against her life. "He said he wanted to kill me and also break my legs," says the farmer. Worse, she says, is that he is a well-known gunman and although he apparently killed someone in Acre before is still free. “He is inside the settlement, ready to kill me”.

Daughter of rubber tappers, she was widowed with four children and when still expecting another. When her first husband, Chico Seringueiro, was killed because of land conflicts she left to live in the streets. The children went to a nursery until she got a new job and started working. She married again and settled in the land of her mother-in-law, in Extrema, Rondônia. There she stayed for 12 years until he moved to a land in the southern Amazon.

In June 2010, when she was president of the God Will Provide (ADP, in Portuguese), which brings together farmers and rubber tappers, she got beaten because she caught some men them removing wood. The beating left her without being able to hear clearly in one ear up to this day. She went to the police, went through forensic examination, went to Manaus, but eventually returned to Lábrea where she received the ultimatum: she had until August that year to leave. "When August came, they burned my house and all my coffee trees," she says.

This year she has again been threatened after being tipped by loggers and land grabbers as the responsible for making complaints that lead to actions in the region coordinated by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (Ibama, in Portuguese). Friends warned the gunman was waiting for her and she managed to run away. By the 10th of June she was far from Lábrea and away from danger, but scared and saddened by the distance from the land and her family. "The gunmen and the killers are the ones who should be in prison, but it’s me who is under arrest”, she grieves.

Nilcilene even wrote a letter blaming the Brazilian state in case she gets murdered. "I want the criminals to be arrested and that the people are free to work, we are Brazilians. I want to go back to my place," she appeals. She says that farmers and rubber tappers live under pressure of land grabbers and loggers who buy wood from the settlements. The ones who refuse to sell are in danger of dying. "They don’t live there, don’t live from their own sweat. I was born in the woods, rubber tapper, defending the environment," she says.

The settlement is in the Village California, a region in the south of the Amazon, near the border with the states of Rondônia and Acre. There live about 500 families of rubber tappers and land reform settlers. It is in the same area where the peasant leader Adelino Ramos, Dinho, murdered in Rondônia at the end of May, used to live. Dinho was a survivor of the Corumbiara (RO) massacre and president of the Peasants Movement Corumbiara and the Amazon Association of Peasants. He was killed when parking the car carrying vegetables produced in the settlement to sell.

Violence in the Amazon

Although the number of murders as a result of conflicts over land in the Amazon is still among the lowest in the Legal Amazon, the state shares the lead with Pará when it comes to the number of people currently under threat. There are 30 of them in each of the two states. In the region of Vila California alone, where Nilcilene is from, there are five people at risk. The instances attracted representatives of the federal government’s Secretariat of Human Rights (SDH, in Portuguese) to the region. They amounted to a total of 131 people under threat in the region after interviews and visits to places of conflict.

In the analysis of the lawyer Jose Batista Afonso, from the CPT Pará, violence goes together with the expansion of the agriculture frontier and timber logging. It's what is seen in southern Amazon, where deforestation increases at the same rate as land grabbing and violence. And that's what happens in other states such as Mato Grosso, Rondônia and Acre.

However the matter is not limited to these regions. In Mamirauá, a channel of the Solimões River, hundreds of miles from the Deforestation Belt, riverine from the Sustainable Development Reserve (RDS) Mamirauá, which is famous for its management plans, claim to be under threat made by fishermen and politicians from Fonte Boa (AM) due to river fishing in the region. The riverine maintain sustainable Pirarucu fish exploration projects and agreements to limit fishing in lakes, which in turn holds back the activity of local fishermen.

According to CPT’s data, last year 18 people were killed in Pará. In addition to the murders in 2010, there were 41 attempts of murder recorded in the Legal Amazon, 110 people living in the region’s states received death threats, two were tortured, 21 arrested and 20 assaulted.

Contributing to this situation is impunity and lack of action by authorities over the situation. Two months after the murder of José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espírito Santo Silva, in Pará, the regional police completed the investigation and indicated the names of the alleged perpetrators, but so far no one has been arrested. The farmer José Rodrigues Moreira, named as one of the minds behind the crime, intended to widen his area of livestock farming within the extractive reserve and was pressing farmers, according to CPT, with the help of the military and regional police. The murdered couple opposed the expansion.

There were two other names indicted as executors besides Rodrigues: Lindonjonson Silva Rocha and Alberto Lopes do Nascimento. The police requested the custody of the three, with the assent of the Public Prosecution board, but the judge of the criminal court in Marabá, Murilo Lemos Simão, denied it. Another request for temporary arrest was also presented by the police and denied by the judge. Since then, entities ask for Simão 's withdraw from the legal case.

A statement recently released to the press and signed by 11 organizations, including the CPT and the CNS, declares that the judge's decision allowed the indicted to flee the region and is "another step in the impunity direction, which has been the hallmark of the judiciary system of Pará performance in relation to crimes involving land". Witnesses could be at risk, since police has disclosed their names. If a new judge is not appointed, the organizations will ask the federalization of the process. The judge’s decree regarding the confidentiality of the investigations, even though it had not been requested, is another point of criticism.

*Collaborated Luciana Nanci

Learn more:
Police discloses names of Zé Cláudio case, by Luciana Nanci
Two more extractive workers are murdered, by Karina Miotto
Commission investigates death of extractive workers, by Danielle Bragança

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