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Erasmo Alves Teófilo


We have the eagerness to live

Erasmo Alves Teófilo is a human rights defender and peasant. He has been working for over ten years in defense of the rights of producing and fishing families in Volta Grande do Xingu, Anapu, Pará, in the Amazon region. The defender, who is also physically disabled, is the president of an association of 350 families, and works closely with local trade unions.

As a result of his human rights work, Erasmo and his family have been receiving increasing threats from a farmer who proclaimed himself the owner of the land in the area and hitmen hired to attack him. In 2019, he suffered a killing attempt where he was living with his family. Because of this, Erasmo was forced to leave his home. On a number of occasions, attackers cut power off from his house, so that he could not ask for order to prevent him from calling for help.

70% of the municipality of Anapu is occupied by family agriculture. The families created sustainable settlement systems in public areas allocated for agrarian reform, known as Sustainable Development Projects (PDS). These are organised in assemblies of producers working with sustainable extractive activities, with a focus on environmental preservation.

For years the region has been targeted by land-grabbers who seek to seize the land to raise cattle. The political influence of these people contributes to impunity before the violence rates. It was in the municipality of Anapu that the missionary Dorothy Stang was killed. In 2019, Father Amaro Lopes was criminalized and the defender Márcio Rodrigues dos Reis was also killed.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Erasmo Alves Teófilo reports feeling abandoned by protection institutions, since they have stopped their field work in the most remote areas, allowing landowners and ranchers to intensify the deforestation, imposing their will without restrictions.

In the words of Erasmo Alves Teófilo during an interview, "We want a way to stay here without worrying, without destroy the forest. We have excellent air and life quality, and we don't want to lose that. We have to preserve the Amazon, because the riverside communities are already dying of hunger as a result of exploitation".


The challenges and threats faced by human rights defenders in Brazil remain very high, particularly for those working on issues of land, environment, indigenous peoples, LGBTi rights, corruption and impunity. Many HRDs have experienced death threats, physical attacks, arbitrary arrests and lawsuits. The high number of killings is of particular concern and takes place against a background of widespread impunity.