EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 19/19/93
UA 206/93 Possible Extrajudicial Execution 23 June 1993
BRAZIL Amancio Francisco DIAS (Rural Union Leader)
Amnesty International is concerned about the death of Amancio Francisco Dias, 41, president
of the Rural Workers Union of Belém de Maria, who was killed on 14 June 1993 in Pernambuco
state, Brazil, in circumstances that indicate that he may have been the victim of an
According to the information received by Amnesty International Amancio Francisco Dias,
father of 10 children, was shot in his house in Belém de Maria. In the evening of 14 June,
at around 20:00, two men called on his home alleging that they had just been dismissed
from a sugar cane plantation in the region and needed some advice. When Amancio Francisco
Dias' wife opened the door the gunmen opened fire hitting Amancio Francisco Dias in the
face. He died immediately from the wounds.
Belém de Maria, with 11,000 inhabitants, employs almost 4000 men and women in the sugar
cane plantation industry. Amancio Francisco Dias had been president of the rural workers'
union for just two years. Reportedly he was one of the most active union leaders in what
is known as "Zona da Mata" (the sugar cane area of Pernambuco State). Recently, acting
as union president, Amancio Francisco Dias had been putting pressure on some refinery owners
to pay outstanding debts to the workers. He had allegedly been receiving death threats
in the weeks before his killing.
Land disputes between peasants, smallholders and landowners and conflicts over rural
workers' conditions are an endemic source of violence in Brazil. Over 1,000 peasants and
their supporters are reported to have been killed since 1980, the vast majority of them
by hired gunmen, known as pistoleiros, employed by landowners or aspiring landowners (See
Amnesty International: Brazil: Authorized Violence in Rural Areas (AMR 19/16/88, September
1988).) Very rarely have the killers been detained or brought to justice. The Assistant
Attorney General of the Republic is reported to have stated early this month that of the
173 cases of rural murders being investigated by the Attorney General's Department, in
which gunmen were paid to commit crime, 72 proved to have the direct participation of military
policemen, while 8 others involved members of the civil police.
Harassment, threats and killings have been more recently targeted at union leaders and
their advisers. According to the Federation of Agricultural Workers of Pernambuco, Federação
dos Trabalhadores na Agricultura do Estado de Pernambuco, (FETAPE), which reportedly
represents 250,000 rural workers in the state, in the last seven years over 50 trade unionists
have been murdered in the state of Pernambuco, among them six this year alone.
Among those killed this year, reportedly in land or work related conflicts in Pernambuco
were Artur Rufino dos Santos, killed in January 1993, allegedly for having testified in
court in favour of a fellow worker on a labour dispute; 17 year old Ednaldo Severino da