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Committee Confirms 11 Dead In Police Invasion of Squatters Camp

August 17, 1995

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) _ Eleven people were killed last week when police violently evicted hundreds of squatters who had occupied a ranch in the southern Amazon, a congressional investigation confirmed Wednesday.

A local bar association chapter said 50 people remained missing, but the congressional report did not mention them.

Nine peasants and two policemen were killed Aug. 9 in the state of Rondonia when police opened fire on a squatters’ camp at the Santa Elina cattle ranch in Corumbiara, about 1,150 miles northwest of Sao Paulo, news reports said.

More than 500 landless families had invaded the ranch in mid-July. They had asked the government to carve out a small plot for them, but local ranchers insisted on expelling them.

Marcos Lemke of the Roman Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission in Rondonia said Wednesday he feared many of the missing could be dead.

Charred bones were found ``buried under the ashes of what seems to have been huge bonfires lit in the jungle where many of the peasants fled to escape the police,″ he said in a telephone interview.

The bones will be analyzed to determine whether or not they are human remains, Lemke said.

The Rondonia branch office of the Brazilian Bar Association said the number of missing should, however, decrease as peasants returned from their jungle refuge.

Unequal land distribution is at the root of rural violence in Brazil, where 88 percent of the land belongs to 20 percent of the people, and the poorest 40 percent own just 1 percent of the land.

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