BOA VISTA, Brazil, JAN. 11, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Three missionaries kidnapped last week in the Amazon region were released in a good state of health, according to the provincial superior of the Consolata missionaries.
The Consolata missionaries — Father Ronildo França of Brazil, Father César Avellaneda of Colombia, and Brother Juan Carlos Martínez of Spain — were kidnapped Tuesday in their Surumu mission, in the state of Roraima, but released on Thursday afternoon.
The three were detained by landowners supported by Indians, who also blocked all access to the Amazon city of Boa Vista, in protest against the establishment of the Raposa-Serra do Sol Indian reserve.
The captors, who held the three religious in Maloca do Contao, some 300 kilometers (185 miles) from Boa Vista, requested a helicopter from the local authorities, which then took the religious to Boa Vista, a journalist with Radio Roraima reported.
Brother Martínez, 39, told ZENIT: “First, they put us in a truck until we reached another village. Subsequently, they took us in several cars to Canta, 30 kilometers from the mission. A detail: all the car drivers were white.”
He specified that the captors were “small landowners” and added: “The large landowners never appear.”
The reason for the kidnapping is that the “government is going to distribute 1.75 million hectares of land to the Indians,” Brother Martínez continued. “Some 14,000 to 15,000 Indians live in the area. These lands belong to them for historical, social and anthropological reasons. In fact, Justice has already ruled in their favor.”
“The government wants to make a continuous demarcation of the land, namely, to have it comprise all the lands, paths, villages, rice fields, etc.,” he said. “Eighty percent of Indians support this plan, but the other 20%, supported by the ‘façendeiros’ [large landowners] want the land to be divided into autonomous ‘islands.'”
The religious said the three were constantly watched by armed men. “They said they would move us from the place so that they would not find us and that if the government approved the demarcation of the land, they would kill us,” the Spanish missionary continued.
“In the end, basically, the government took us out by the back door, negotiating with the Indians,” he added.