RIO DE JANEIRO (BRAZIL) – A Friends of the Earth International delegation joins today a demonstration in Rio de Janeiro to denounce the brutal murder of two fishermen leaders from the Guanabara Bay and to express our solidarity with the families of the victims and their community.
On June 14th 2012, one week prior to the Rio+20 UN Earth Summit, Friends of the Earth International chair Nnimmo Bassey took part in a ‘toxic tour’ of the Guanabara Bay near Rio de Janeiro where the association AHOMAR has been denouncing since 2007 the crimes and rights violations which took place during the construction of the Rio de Janeiro Petrochemical Complex, one of the largest investments in the history of Brazilian energy giant Petrobras.
Friends of the Earth International signed on the statement below and will closely follow the investigation and measures to be taken by the State Government in the defense of all fisherfolks involved in this struggle.
Repudiation on the murder of AHOMAR fishermen
The undersigned social movements and civil society organizations express in this manifest their indignation for the brutal murder of Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra, artisanal fishermen and members of Homens e Mulheres do Mar Association (AHOMAR) in the Guanabara Bay. We demand that the State of Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian State to take immediate mesures too investigate the facts and to protect the lives of threatened fisher folk.
Almir and Pituca were leaders of AHOMAR, a local fisherfolk organization, in struggle against the social and environmental impacts created by big economic investments that are making artisanal fishing impossible in the Guanabara Bay. Both went missing after going out to fish on friday, June 22nd 2012. Almir’s body was found on sunday, June 24th, tied to their boat, submerged close to the São Lourenço beach in Magé, Rio de Janeiro. The body of João Luiz Telles, Pituca, was found on monday, June 25th, with hands and feet tied in fetal position, close to the São Gonçalo beach.
AHOMAR: a history of struggle
AHOMAR represents artisan fisherfolk from seven municipalities at the Guanabara Bay and has 1.870 associate members. Since 2007, they systematically denounce the crimes and rights violations occurred during the construction of the Rio de Janeiro Petrochemical Complex (COMPERJ), one of the largest investments in the history of PetroBras (Brazilian semi-public multinational energy corporation) and part of the Brazilian government’s Growth Acceleration Plan (PAC).
In 2009, the men and women of AHOMAR have occupied the construction sites of land and sub-sea gas pipelines for transport of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), built by a consortium between two contractors: GDK and Oceânica, hired by Petrobras. This construction is directly making artisanal fishing impossible in the Mauá-Magé beach, Guanabara Bay, where the AHOMAR headquarters is located. They anchored their boats close to the pipelines and stayed there for 38 days. Since then, the fishermen are suffering constant death threats. That same year, in may, Paulo Santos Souza, formerly in charge of the association’s accounting, was brutally beaten in front of his family and killed with five shots in the head. In 2010, another AHOMAR founder, Márcio Amaro, was also murdered at his home, in front of his mother and wife. Both crimes have never been cleared up.
Because of the violence and the constant threats, since 2009, Alexandre Anderson de Souza, president of AHOMAR, and his family are under protection of the Human Rights Defenders Program, living 24h under police escort. That couldn’t prevent new attempted attacks on Alexandre’s life.
Escalation of threats and more murders
By the end of 2011 and first months of 2012, the AHOMAR fisherfolk got mobilized once more against the impacts of the COMPERJ construction. Under the argument of accelerating the construction execution schedule, Petrobras and INEA (Environment State Institute of Rio de Janeiro) tried to bring back to the project a proposal that had been discarded before, during the environmental licensing process. The manoeuvre was about turning the Guaxindiba River, a Guanabara Bay afluent, into a waterway for the transportation of the COMPERJ construction equipment.
Aware of the proportions of the impact this project would have on the Guanabara Bay and artisanal fishing, the members of AHOMAR denounced the intentions of Petrobras and leaded a mobilization in solidarity to Breno Herrera, head of the Guapimirim environmental protection area, threatened to be dismissed from the National Institute for the Conservation of Biodiversity because of his opposition to this enterprise. Since then, the threats against the AHOMAR fisher folk has escalated.
To worsen this situation, in february 2012, the Police Deployment of Mauá beach, where both the AHOMAR headquarters and Alexandre Anderson’s residence are located, has been deactivated, exposing the fisher folk to new threats and increasing the vulnerability of the local population. Since then, three other community leaders suffered death threats. In this context of disarray of public security in the region and escalation of threats against the fisherfolk, Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra have been murdered. This deaths were, therefore, foretold. Clear evidences were point out that both have been executed. In face of this grave events, we express all our indignation and full solidarity to AHOMAR and to the families of the murdered fishermen. At the same time, we demand:
- That the murderers of Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra and the mandators of this crime be identified and made responsible;
- That the investigations on the deaths of Paulo Santos Souza and Márcio Amaro are carried on, and that their murderers are also identified and made responsible;
- That all the threats against the AHOMAR fisherfolk are investigated;
- That the Governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral, signs the Decree Law of the State Programe for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.
- That the Presidency of the Republic Human Rights Secretariat follows closely the investigations on the murders of the leaders mentioned above.
- That the protection of Alexandre Anderson is stregthen and that the police escort can be extended to protect his wife, Daize Menezes de Souza;
- The immediate reactivation of the DPO Praia de Mauá police deployment and the improvement of public security in the region;
- That Petrobras and the companies involved in the COMPERJ construction in the Guanabara Bay negotiate with AHOMAR recognizing the movement’s fair agenda and the fisherfolk’s demands.
The undersigned will go on denouncing the killing of the activists engaged in legitimate social struggle against the destruction of the conditions of artisanal fishing in the Guanabara Bay and other fishing areas of the State of Rio de Janeiro. We will also follow closely the process of investigations and measures to be taken by the State Government in the defense of all fishefolk’s compromised with this struggle. The deaths of Almir, João Luiz, Paulo and Márcio lead us to affirm: we are all fisherfolk, we are all AHOMAR activists!