Survey reveals doubling of annual average of murders of quilombolas from 2018 to 2022 compared to 2008-2017
Approximately 70 percent of the murders were recorded in territories that have not been titled. Maranhão is the state with the highest number of murders.
The annual average of murders of members of quilombola communities in Brazil has almost doubled in the last five years, compared to the period from 2008 to 2017. This is revealed by the new edition of the study “Racism and Violence against Quilombos in Brazil” (original title: “Racismo e Violência contra Quilombos no Brasil”), launched on November 17. Developed by the National Coordination for the Articulation of Black Rural Quilombola Communities (Coordenação Nacional de Articulação das Comunidades Negras Rurais Quilombolas – Conaq, in Portuguese) and Terra de Direitos, the study records the various types of violence against quilombos that occurred between 2018 and 2022. The data shows the worsening and deterioration of inequalities and violence historically practiced against quilombola communities, which was already revealed in the first edition.
In the five-year period analyzed, 32 murders were mapped, with cases recorded in 11 states and all regions of the country – including the Central-West region, which had not recorded any cases in the first edition. Land conflicts and gender-based violence are among the main causes of murders of quilombolas in Brazil. At least 13 quilombolas were killed in the context of fighting for and defending their territory.
The survey further reveals that violence against quilombolas has increased in the last five years. In the first edition, covering a ten-year period (2008-2017), 38 murders were mapped. However, the comprehensive data spanning 15 years (2008 to 2022) now reveals that 70 quilombolas were murdered.
Compared to the first edition, which covered the years 2008 to 2017, the annual average of 3.8 murders has risen to 6.4 a year. This figure is almost double the annual average of murders in the previous survey. In the 10 years analyzed in the first edition, the record of more than four murders of quilombolas per year was an exception – only two years exceeded this number. In this second edition, however, 4 murders of quilombolas were recorded in the years with the lowest number of violence in the analyzed period. The years 2019 to 2021 saw peaks of up to 8 murders. The research also reveals that in at least 15 of these crimes, the people murdered were leaders recognized by the communities.
Another highlight of the new study is the high occurrence of femicides. Out of the 32 murders recorded, the victims were women in 9 of them. In all cases, it was found that the murder occurred because the victims were women, with current or former partners identified as the perpetrators of the violence. Although this refers to the private sphere of relationships, the organizations understand that violence against women is a reflection of the political struggle they engage in and carry out within the quilombos, defending the territory and ensuring the survival of the communities. Mirroring the overall murder data, the proportion of quilombola women murdered has doubled in the last period, with nine quilombola femicides recorded in five years (2018-2022), compared to eight quilombola women murdered over the ten-year period covered in the first volume (2008-2017).
In addition to murders, the study includes a survey of rights violations suffered by quilombola communities where murders have been identified, the land situation of these quilombola communities, as well as case studies.
The research is being launched three months after the murder of Maria Bernadete Pacífico on August 17 of this year. Mãe Bernadete was from the Pitanga dos Palmares Quilombo, coordinator of Conaq, Yalorixá1, and mother of Flávio Gabriel Pacífico dos Santos – aka Binho do Quilombo – also a quilombola leader, who was murdered in 2017 in a conflict over territory. The leader was a member of the Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Communicators and Environmentalists (Programa de Proteção aos Defensores de Direitos Humanos, Comunicadores e Ambientalistas – PPDDH, in Portuguese). According to Conaq’s legal office, investigations into the case are ongoing by the Civil Police.
Although Mãe Bernadete’s murder is not included in the period analyzed in the survey, partial data from 2023 shows that 7 quilombolas were murdered this year.
“The Brazilian State needs to take immediate measures to protect quilombola leaders throughout Brazil. It is the State’s duty to ensure that there is a swift and effective investigation and that those responsible for the crimes that have victimized the leaders of these Quilombos and so many others are duly held accountable. It is crucial that justice is done, that the truth is known, and that the perpetrators are punished. We want justice to honor the memory of our lost leaders, but also so that we can say that, in Brazil, acts of violence against quilombolas will not be tolerated,” says Conaq’s executive coordinator, Biko Rodrigues.
In 10 of the 26 communities where murders were recorded, there are no open cases at the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Instituto Nacional de Reforma e Colonização Agrária – INCRA, in Portuguese), the authority responsible for land regularization in quilombola territories. Among those in this situation, 70 percent of the murders were motivated by land conflicts, i.e. 7 murders.
Among the 11 quilombos that are fully or partially titled, land conflicts accounted for 27 percent of the murders. Of the three murders recorded for this reason, two took place in territories that were only partially titled.
A look at the violence recorded in quilombos that have some form of titling reveals that guaranteeing the territory is essential to mitigate violence resulting from land conflicts. However, progress needs to be made in implementing other public policies to protect families. Gender-based violence, for example, is constant in all phases of the titling process.
“The full titling of territories serves as a safeguard for the lives of quilombolas by withdrawing their land from the market and increasing their autonomy in managing these areas. This, in turn, reduces and diminishes the harassment from land grabbers and property speculation. However, in order to tackle violence against quilombolas, it is also necessary for quilombola territories to be a place where public policies are developed, such as preventing violence against women, protecting human rights defenders, and other policies that recognize the specific and unique realities of this population,” says Terra de Direitos legal advisor Kathleen Tiê.
According to the Palmares Foundation, there are 1,805 processes currently open at INCRA for land regularization of quilombola territories.
In order to put an end to all the violence against quilombola communities, the organizations list a set of recommendations to be adopted by different spheres of government. In this list, the adoption of measures to advance and strengthen the land regularization policy is one of the highlights. The organizations recommend that the state and municipality governments draw up plans for the titling of quilombola territories, with concrete annual targets, an adequate budget, and an appropriate administrative structure, so that quilombola territories can be titled within a reasonable timeframe.
With regard to the protection of quilombola leaders, the research points to the need to review the policy for the protection of human rights defenders, ensuring the social participation of society and the creation, by the Federal and State Public Prosecutor’s Offices, of a commission or working group to monitor cases of murders of quilombola leaders, among other measures.
In order to continue the research launched in 2018, Conaq and Terra de Direitos established a network of 28 quilombola mobilizers. Responsible for contacting leaders from different territories, this network applied a semi-open questionnaire to a sample of 269 quilombos in 24 states between October 2021 and February 2022. This direct relationship with the territories allowed the organizations to capture data that had not been made public and even to better analyze the condition of the quilombos and identify trends among the cases of violations.
Based on the data collected from the questionnaires, the organizations cross-referenced the answers with official databases, such as those of the Palmares Cultural Foundation (Fundação Cultural Palmares, in Portuguese), Incra, and other organizations, such as the São Paulo Pro-Indigenous Commission (Comissão Pró-Índio de São Paulo – CPISP, in Portuguese).
- 32 quilombolas were murdered between 2018 and 2022.
- Murders were recorded in 26 quilombola communities between 2018 and 2022.
- One murder was recorded in 23 quilombola communities. In the communities of Rio dos Macacos (state of Bahia) and Cedro (state of Maranhão) there were 3 murders, and in the Conceição de Crioulas Quilombo (state of Pernambuco) there were 4.
- In 15 years, 70 quilombolas have been murdered (2008 to 2022).
- The years 2019 and 2021 saw 8 murders each.
- In 6 of the 32 murders, it was possible to identify the occurrence of threats prior to the murders
- Maranhão is the state with the highest number of murders (09), followed by Bahia, Pará, and Pernambuco, with four cases each.
- The Northeast is the region with the highest number of murders recorded (21), accounting for 65.6 percent of all cases. The North is the region with the second highest number, with 4 murders mapped.
- Only one case concerns the murder of a member of an urban or urbanized quilombo. The other 31 records were against members of rural quilombos.
- Firearms were the most common means used in 19 of the 32 murders. Cold weapons (such as knives, sickles, axes, or screwdrivers) were used in 10 cases.
- Out of the 32 murders, 23 were of men and 9 of women. }
- Spouses, partners, and ex-spouses/partners were the perpetrators in 100 percent of femicide cases.
- The victims ranged in age from 19 to 62, and the average age was 34.
- Most of the victims – 6 – lived in the Northeast region.
- Most of the crimes took place in the victims’ own homes (5).
- Firearms were the predominant means employed to murder men – accounting for 69.5% of the cases (16 murders). Women, on the other hand, were mostly killed with bladed weapons (knife, sickle, axe, or screwdriver) – 4 cases – or with torture methods (1 case of strangulation and 1 beating).
Conflicts and land regularization
- Land conflicts were the motivation behind 13 murders or 43 percent of the cases mapped.
- 21 of the murders (69%) were recorded in quilombos that had not been granted land titles (either partially or fully)
Elitânia de Souza da Hora – Tabuleiro da Vitória Quilombo, in Cachoeira/state of Bahia (BA)
November 27, 2019
Elitânia was a quilombola leadership and university student at the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia (UFRB), through the university’s affirmative action policy. She was a member of the UFRB’s Quilombola Collective and played a leading role in actions for rural development in the Tabuleiro da Vitória micro-region. She was also a member of the Maravilhas Quilombolas Productive Group, which produces liqueurs, sweets, and other family farming products, benefiting from the Brazil Quilombola Seal (Selo Brasil Quilombola). The young woman was murdered in the street with a firearm. The main suspect in her murder is her ex-partner, José Alexandre Passos Goes. The young woman had a protective order issued against her ex-partner, the son of a Bahian court judge. With the case still pending and no conviction, Elitânia’s family has denounced the delay and lack of transparency in the process.
The community was certified by the Palmares Foundation in 2013, and since then the administrative process has been going on at Incra without progress in the preparation of the Technical Identification and Delimitation Report (Relatório Técnico de Identificação e Delimitação – RTID, in Portuguese). As a result of this slow progress, in 2020, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office filed a Public Civil Action for Incra and the Federal Government to conclude the administrative process of land regularization.
Juscelino Fernandes Diniz and Wanderson de Jesus Rodrigues Fernandes – Cedro Quilombo, in Arari/state of Maranhão (MA)
January 05, 2020
They were both community leaders who denounced the agrarian conflict with land grabbers. Father and son were murdered in front of their family by hooded gunmen who broke into their home.
In 2019, Juscelino and Wanderson were arrested along with three other people – one of them Juscelino’s daughter – after removing electric fences installed in the territory by the invaders, which prevented free access to the community. The action highlights the criminalization of human rights defenders. The failure to deal with the conflict with land grabbers in the Cedro Quilombola Community (located in the state of Maranhão) victimized another quilombola in 2022. José Francisco Lopes Rodrigues – known as Quiqui – was murdered in his home by a gunman.
Nazildo dos Santos Brito – Turé III Quilombo, in the municipalities of Tomé-Açu and Acará/state of Pará (PA)
April 14, 2018
The former president of the Association of Remaining Residents and Farmers from Quilombolas of Alto Acará, Nazildo, was threatened for denouncing illegal deforestation and pesticide pollution in the springs of Tomé-Açu. The leader asked the state of Pará for protection but received no help. The community is in conflict with the company Biopalma, which exploits the region to produce palm kernel oil.
Previous research had already identified other cases of murders of quilombolas from the same community. In 2012, brothers Abiar Amaral Gusmão and Josivani Amaral Gusmão were also murdered in the same region and denounced the Biovale and Biopalma companies. In 2014, Artêmio Amaral Gusmão – Abiar and Josiavani’s brother – was also killed in the same region.
The quilombola territory is partially titled.
Humberto Erick da Silva, Leudo Lopes da Silva, Maria Aparecida da Silva, and Elena Espedita – Conceição das Crioulas Quilombo, in Salgueiro/state of Pernambuco (PE)
The Conceição das Crioulas Quilombo had 4 murders in the analyzed period, 3 of which were due to gender-based violence. Maria and Elena were victims of femicide. Humberto Erick da Silva, Maria’s son, was killed when he tried to defend his mother from knife blows. The crime against Maria and Humberto was committed on March 25, 2019, by Maria’s husband, Joaquim Parcilio da Silva, Humberto’s stepfather. Leudo Lopes was shot dead on April 2nd, 2018.
The quilombola territory is partially titled.
Translator’s Note: Yalorixá is the term used for a priestess of Afro-Brazilian religions, such as Umbanda and Candomblé.
Actions: Land Conflicts
Axes: Earth, territory and space justice