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Brasilia – “Major projects have brought death and destruction to our people, they attack our territories, attack our culture, attack our identity and take away our sleep, causing many diseases”: these are the words of Josana Pinto da Costa, in the presentation of the 2021 Report on socio-environmental conflicts and violations of human rights in traditional fishing communities in Brazil. The Report was presented online on June 29, on the occasion of the Feast of St. Peter, patron saint of fishermen.
As the note of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference sent to Fides informs, the arrival of large projects in the artisanal fishing areas has led to violations of the rights of communities and other negative impacts from a socio-environmental and socio-economic point of view . The 2021 report produced by the Pastoral Council of Fishermen notes that the limitations to access regarding territories, deforestation, real estate speculation, tourist developments, large estates and farms are the main factors identified as causes of conflicts in the areas of traditional fishing communities in 14 Brazilian states. “The report denounces the systematic violations that the fishing communities have faced in these 520 years of colonization and exploitation and how in the latter period these conflicts are accentuated or worsened”, explained the executive secretary of the national CPP, Ormezita Barbosa.
The survey was carried out on the basis of forms completed by local CPP groups and partner entities, collecting information on 166 traditional fishing communities in 14 states of the federation. The conflicts, according to the report, have affected more than 49,000 families, involving 40,237 women and 17,906 children and adolescents. There are 434 reports of conflicts and violations. According to the CPP, the socio-environmental consequences concern the decrease in the quantity and variety of fish, the destruction of habitats. In the socio-economic sphere, fishermen suffer from the limitation of access to the territory, the decrease in family income, the loss of traditional values, internal conflicts and the breaking of community ties. In the struggle for their territories, fishermen face death threats and various forms of racism, along with other violations to which they are subjected, such as sexual crimes, murders, police investigations, personal injuries, judicial processes, religious racism, attempted murders and violence gender. The CPP report also contains data related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Only 39% of the communities have reported cases of Covid-19, but the socio-economic impacts of the worsening of the situations already experienced by fishermen have been strongly felt. The Bishop of Brejo and referent of the Pastoral Care of Fishermen, Mgr. José Valdeci Santos Mendes, spoke during the launch of the report by commenting on the chosen date, dedicated to that fisherman called by Jesus “to be a faithful disciple and who, with his fidelity, became a martyr in the journey of the Church”. Like Saint Peter, freed from the chains of Herod by the angel sent by God, the Bishop underlined how the messengers of God, men and women, “are committed to life, are committed to struggle, are committed to a more just and fraternal world”. Therefore, he invited pastoral workers to continue in the fight against the Herods of today’s world, “who kill, deny rights, deny life, massacre the poor, and traditional communities”.