May 12, 1999
Brazil activist for landless found shot to death

                  SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) -- A leader of Brazil's radical Landless
                  Rural Workers Movement was found shot dead in the remote Amazon state
                  of Para seven days after he disappeared, newspapers reported on

                  The bullet-riddled decomposing body of rural union director Agripino
                  Soares da Silva, 40, was found by the side of a highway in the latest violent
                  episode in Para, where 19 peasants were massacred in 1996.

                  Silva led thousands in a protest of the government's land policy just 10 days
                  before his body was found. The group occupied official buildings in the city
                  of Maraba, deep in the Amazon jungle, in demand of land they say is not
                  being productively used by its owners.

                  Authorities found five .38-calibre shell casings near the corpse but did not
                  comment on the direction of their investigation, newspapers said.

                  The Brazilian interior is frequently the scene of violent conflict between farm
                  owners and landless farmers waiting to be settled under the government's
                  policy of agrarian reform, and Para has been the site of some of the bloodier

                  The Catholic-run Pastoral Land Commission said in its latest annual report
                  that 30 people were killed in land disputes in 1997. The previous year 54
                  were killed. The commission said courts were increasingly backing the
                  eviction of landless farmers.

                  Brazil has one of the world's more unequal land distributions, with 2 percent
                  of landowners controlling more than 50 percent of arable land. The MST
                  says 4.8 million families are waiting to be settled.

                     Copyright 1999 Reuters.