Death threats against Spanish bishop in Brazil

10th December 2012, Comments 0 comments

A Spanish bishop was forced to leave his home in the Brazilian Amazon after receiving death threats linked to his defense of indigenous people's rights, a Catholic group said Monday.

Pedro Casaldaliga, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, moved to a secret location more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from his home in the central town of Sao Felix do Araguaia in Mato Grosso state at the request of federal police, the Church-linked Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) said.

The 84-year-old, who has been defending the rights of the poor and indigenous Xavantes for more than 40 years, was one of the chief proponents of the leftist Liberation Theology in Latin America and as such was persecuted during Brazil's military dictatorship (1964-1985).

He has been based in the Amazon for the past 44 years.

In recent days, he had ben receiving a growing number of death threats from settlers illegally occupying Xavantes lands for more than 20 years.

Judicial authorities recently ruled that the settlers had to vacate the lands and returned them to the Xavantes, a decision that worsened the dispute.

Several secular and religious organizations sent messages of solidarity to the bishop.

In a statement, the CPT appealed to the international community to "ensure the safety of Casaldaliga and protect indigenous rights."

It said information on the bishop's plight came from Francesc Escribano, a Spanish journalist and writer who is his biographer and is preparing a television series on him.

In 1998, the Brazilian government demarcated Xavantes lands but it is only now that judicial authorities have conclusively recognized their rights to 165,000 hectares (407,724 acres) of ancestral lands in Maraiwatsede.

Casaldaliga's defense of the Xavantes has put him at odds with ranchers, the former Brazilian dictatorship and even the Vatican.

He has lived under constant death threats from hitmen. He was the founder of both the CPT and the Indigenous Missionary Council.

© 2012 AFP

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