Brazil: Agropalma oil palm plantation security shoots and kills Indigenous man

Sign of the Agropalma palm oil company on the edge of an oil palm plantation Sign of the Agropalma palm oil company on the edge of an oil palm plantation in the Brazilian state of Pará in the Amazon rainforest. Translation: NO TRESPASSING - PROPERTY OF THE AGROPALMA GROUP (© RdR/ Klaus Schenck)

Nov 15, 2023

There has been another violent episode in the land conflicts involving the palm oil company Agropalma in the Amazon rainforest in Pará: On November 10, an Indigenous Turiwara man was killed and at least two other people were injured by shots fired by the company’s security forces. The Indigenous people are raising serious accusations against Agropalma and the Brazilian authorities.

Our partner organizations in Brazil have informed us that on November 10, three Indigenous people, Agnaldo da Silva Paz, Jonas and Zé Luís, were shot by suspected Agropalma security. According to the BT+ website and our partner organization Avispa Midia, the 33-year-old Agnaldo died at the scene.

O Globo reports that Brazilian federal authorities confirmed the death of the Indigenous man on November 12 and that the federal police have launched an investigation. The crime scene is on the edge of the municipalities of Acará and Tailândia in the Amazon region of the state of Pará, where the palm oil industry in Brazil is concentrated.

The background to the violence is the ongoing land and land use conflicts in the area. The three people affected were part of a group of around 50 Indigenous people who were walking along an old path early in the morning toward one of their remaining rainforest areas to forage for food.

In August, Rainforest Rescue visited the area, met with local people and drove through Agropalma’s cultivation areas.

Land areas larger than Berlin

Agropalma claims to have been awarded 10 labels for supposedly organic, fair and sustainable palm oil and counts 20 international food and retail groups among its customers. The group of companies claims ownership of 1,060 square kilometers of land in the Amazon rainforest, which is considerably more than the area of Berlin. Over a third of the land has been cleared and converted into industrial oil palm plantations.

The company has declared the remaining part a private conservation area that it uses for carbon offsetting projects. The Brazilian Association of Anthropology has asked the federal prosecutor’s office of Pará to open an investigation into the carbon credit purchase agreement signed between Agropalma and the company Biofilia Ambipar Ambiental, reports Avispa Midia.

Much of the land claimed by Agropalma was apparently unlawfully appropriated from the state, local communities and smallholders, reports Publica. “Agropalma is accused of land theft and its claim to 58 thousand hectares has been anulled by the judiciary” is the headline of a detailed Ver-O-Fato background article on the palm oil company.

Local people – including the Indigenous Turiwara, Quilombola communities and Riberinhos are demanding the return of their traditional land and usage rights.

Indigenous leader makes serious accusations

An anonymous Indigenous leader explained the course of events and other serious offenses to Ver-O-Fato:

“A pickup truck appeared on the road, and five security guards carrying guns who claimed to be police officers got out and used tear gas. In the midst of the confusion, they started shooting at us, killing Agnaldo and wounding Jonas and Zé Luís,” Ver-O-Fato quotes the witness as saying.

The security forces damaged the Indigenous people’s motorcycles and stole the dead man’s cell phone. After the attack, more security forces arrived and blocked the road, leaving the group stranded without help, food or water until nightfall, Ver-O-Fato added.

“Under the cover of darkness, I managed to escape the siege by the security forces and ran through the forest until I reached the village of Forquilha at around 11 pm, where I asked for help. An ambulance was sent to the site, but the Agropalma security forces did not let it in and said there were no injuries or deaths,” the Indigenous leader continued.

From Forquilha, he hitchhiked to the village of Palmares and went to the military police. A vehicle was sent to the location, but here too the security forces said that nothing unusual had happened. The military police did not enter the area.

Both the military and civilian police are said to have refused to support the Indigenous people because they are not allowed to enter the company’s land without permission. Agropalma is said to have lied to the police through its security forces. It was only after much insistence at the local civil police station that the police authorities are said to have arranged for Agnaldo da Silva Paz’s body to be transferred to the forensic institute in Tucuruí.

Agropalma told the Brazilian media that the company was waiting for the relevant authorities to investigate the matter. The company stated that it is open to the authorities and is cooperating with the investigations.

Complaints about obstruction of ancestral rights of way

According to BT+, the federal public prosecutor’s office of Pará has launched an investigation into allegations that Agropalma is obstructing the rights of way of Indigenous communities and the exercise of their traditional activities such as fishing and agriculture. According to the criminal complaints, the company had demarcated the land and prohibited the Indigenous population from crossing it for traditional activities on their ancestral territory. The company had even blocked the Acará River with barges.

Agropalma replied that it has no knowledge of the existence of Indigenous communities on its land. The palm oil company emphasized that resolving land claims is a direct process between the claimant communities and the government and that the company is not involved.

Rainforest Rescue calls on the responsible Brazilian authorities to investigate the circumstances of the deadly attack, to bring the perpetrators and those behind the attack to justice and to fully clarify the company’s responsibility for the deadly violence. The statements made by the Indigenous leader to Ver-O-Fato must also be investigated. These include possible offenses committed by Agropalma personnel such as failure to render assistance resulting in death, usurpation of authority, abduction of around 50 Indigenous people, obstruction of ancestral rights of way, damage to and theft of private property, obstruction of the authorities and false statements.

Furthermore, the inaction of the responsible police authorities must be investigated and prosecuted. The local population must be given back their ancestral territories and granted land titles for them.

  1. BT+ websiteBT+ 2023. Indígena morre baleado por seguranças de empresa em Tailândia, denuncia etnia Turiwara:

  2. our partner organization Avispa MidiaAvispa Midia 2023. Seguridad de empresa de palma africana asesina a indígena en la Amazonía:

  3. O GloboO Globo 2023. PF abre inquérito para investigar morte de indígena em área de produção de óleo de palma no Pará:

  4. Avispa MidiaAvispa Midia 2023. Agropalma es investigada en Brasil por querer lucrar con bosques en la Amazonía:

  5. PublicaPublica (2022). Com inércia do governo, empresas do dendê avançam sobre terras públicas da Amazônia:

  6. Ver-O-FatoVer-O-Fato (2022). BOMBA – Acusada de grilagem e com 58 mil hectares cancelados pela justiça, Agropalma está à venda:

  7. QuilombolaDescendants of formerly enslaved Africans

  8. RiberinhosSmallholders that live along river banks

  9. Ver-O-FatoVer-O-Fato 2023. URGENTE – Seguranças da Agropalma matam um indígena e ferem outro no Vale do Acará:

  10. BT+BT+ 2023. MPF e Polícia Federal investigam caso de morte de indígena Turiwara em Tailândia, no Pará:

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