Commodity traders accused of death threats and violence against Brazilian Indigenous communities
Bororo Indians, left, and Xavante Indians, right, both from the movement "Grito do Cerrado," or Scream of the Cerrado, race carrying logs in Brasilia, Brazil. The Grito do Cerrado is a peaceful movement by Indians and farmers who live in the Cerrado biome in Brazil's tropical savanna area, whose aim is to alert people about the destruction of the land due to deforestation, industrial agriculture and unplanned settlements. | Eraldo Peres/AP

Brazil’s rural communities face death threats and violence as corporations seek to force them from their sustainably managed land, a new Global Witness report claimed Nov. 23.

The community of Capão do Modesto in Bahia state is one of those facing forced displacement to make way for powerful agricultural producers of environmentally damaging cash crops like soy and cotton, it is claimed.

Locals allege that security guards hired by a group of major soy producers have carried out violence, destruction of property, and death threats, while the community also faces litigation to prevent it from accessing its lands.

“The conflict is an example of a ‘green land grab’,” Global Witness said, “with the farmers claiming that the contested area is a ‘legal reserve’ — forest areas that Brazilian law requires be preserved to offset deforestation for soy.”

The human rights group said that the Brazilian government must prioritize the provision of recognized land titles to traditional communities in Brazil to allow them to live in peace.

Investigations by Global Witness revealed that global commodity traders ADM, Bunge, and Cargill are dealing in “conflict-tainted soy sourced from these producers.”

“In doing so [they] are contributing to this land conflict and alleged human rights abuses,” which is a violation of UN human rights standards, the NGO said.

Locals are doing their best to defend their communities from the land grab and to remain in their traditional homeland.

“We resist because we need to remain in our territory,” said Juscelino Santos Britto. “If we give up our land to them, what are we going to live off?”

The European Union imported 7 million tons of Brazilian soy last year.

Global Witness spokeswoman Marina Commandulli called for “strong action from the European Commission as it moves ahead with new draft legislation to hold companies liable for human rights and environmental harms in their supply chains.”

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