Gunmen storm Amazon hospital, murder Brazil land activist - local media

A tree known as Castanheira-do-Brasil (Bertholletia excelsa) stands in a farm during an operation to combat illegal mining and logging conducted by agents of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, or Ibama, supported by military police, in the municipality of Novo Progresso, Para State, northern Brazil, in this file photo. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Activist Waldomiro Costa Pereira had been recovering in hospital from a previous assassination attempt when he was killed

By Chris Arsenault

RIO DE JANEIRO, March 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Five armed men burst into a small town hospital in the Brazilian Amazon, surrounded security guards and shot dead a prominent land rights activist, local media reported on Tuesday, in the latest deadly attack on land campaigners.

Waldomiro Costa Pereira, an activist with the Landless Workers Movement (MST) was killed on Monday when gunmen stormed the hospital in Parauapebas in northeastern Brazil's Para State, campaigners said in a statement.

Brazil has become one of the world's most dangerous countries for land rights activists, with 61 killings last year, the highest level since 2003, according to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), a Brazilian advocacy group.

The motive for Pereira's murder is unclear, MST said, but the activist had been recovering in hospital from a previous assassination attempt.

"This is yet another murder of workers in the state of Para," MST said in a statement.

"Impunity has become commonplace as has the action of criminal militia groups," the group said, adding Pereira was a long-time activist in the "struggle for agrarian reform".

At the time of his killing, Pereira was not active with the MST and was instead devoting his time to advising the local government on agriculture, the activist group said.

Local officials in the city of Parauapebas condemned the murder and police said they are investigating the killing, the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported.

Conflicts over territory are common in Brazil where one percent of the population owns nearly half of the nation's land, according to a 2016 study from the University of Windsor in Canada.

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