ANAPU, Brazil -- About 2,000 soldiers headed yesterday to a lawless
The troops were sent to restore order hours after thousands of people converged on this remote Amazon town to bury the bullet-riddled body of Dorothy Stang, the 73-year-old nun who was killed trying to defend the jungle where she had lived for decades.
As mourners paid their last respects to Stang, a peasant and a former union president were found shot to death in the rural state of Para, where Anapu is located. The soldiers were mobilized by Vice President Jose Alencar, who is also Brazil's defense minister. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva cut short a visit to Suriname to return home and deal with the conflict.
Advocates for poor settlers in the region said the soldiers' presence will probably calm tensions for now.
But they warned the violence in Para could easily spiral out of control again without solid steps to resolve the bitter disputes among settlers, land speculators and loggers, and ranchers who hire gunmen to kill opponents.
"How long are these troops going to stay?" asked Bishop Tomas Balduino, president of the Roman Catholic Church-linked Land Pastoral group, which helps landless farmers throughout Brazil. "As soon as they leave, we'll be back in the same situation."
Hoping to restore order to an area where slave-labor and illegal logging is rife, the troops were to deploy in Anapu, Paraupebas, and Altamira, a small city along the Trans-Amazon Highway about 59 miles from Anapu, the official Agencia Brasil news agency reported.
Environmentalists, however, were doubtful that the soldiers alone can solve the region's problems. They were recently angered when the government quietly restored some logging permits in Para after loggers and ranchers staged protests by blocking roads
"It's an emergency, and the army has to go in to guarantee security, but we have to resolve the root problems," said Nilo D'Avila, a coordinator for Greenpeace's Amazon Project.
In the latest attacks, assailants gunned down Daniel Soares da Costa, the former president of Rural Workers Union in Paraupebas, about 210 miles from Anapu. .