|João Luiz Telles Penetra, one of the two murdered activists|
Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles “Pituca” Penetra were both leaders of the Associação Homens do Mar. AHOMAR (Association of Sea Men) is an organisation set up in 2009 to defend the rights of the fisher-folk working in Rio de Janeiro, and particularly those affected by the construction of a gas pipeline for Petrobras.
On June 19, both fishermen attended a meeting at Peoples' Summit, a RIO+20 side event in Rio de Janeiro, to discuss the impacts of big projects in the country. Three days later they disappeared.
On June 22, at approximately 4:00pm, Almir Nogueira de Amorim went to João Luiz Telles Penetra’s home in Ilha de Paquetá, a neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, to collect him to go fishing. When they did not return the following day, local fishermen and fire fighters began a search of the Guanabara Bay.
On June 24th, the body of Almir Nogueira de Amorim was found. he was tied to his boat. He had bruises on his neck and the boat had several holes in the hull.
The following day, João Luiz Telles Penetra’s body was found on the banks of Guanabara Bay. Both his hands and feet were tied with a rope.
Almir Nogueira de Amorim was a founding member and vocal activist of AHOMAR. João Luiz Telles Penetra was the leader of the association in Ilha de Paquetá and had been a key figure in a new campaign launched by the organisation. He led the struggle against Petrobras’ construction plans in Guaxindiba river, located within the Área de Proteção Ambiental Guapimirim (Environmental Protected Area of Guapimirim). The oil company wants to deepen the river to create a waterway, which would eliminate any possibility of fishing in these waters.
Since the founding of AHOMAR, the organisation its members have reported being subjected to death threats, physical attacks and killings. According to AHOMAR’s members, the attacks are perpetrated by people linked to death squads, security guards hired by the companies in charge of building pipelines and militias operating in the region.
Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra are not the first members of AHOMAR to be murdered. On 19 January 2010, fisherman and human rights defender Marcio Amaro was assassinated one day after a demonstration, organised by AHOMAR, took place in front of the Petrobras headquarters in downtown Rio de Janeiro. Prior to his killing Marcio Amaro had filed a formal complaint concerning the presence of unlawfully armed men in Petrobras construction sites in Guanabara Bay.
On 22 May 2009 Paulo César dos Santos Souza, former treasurer of the association, was killed in front of his wife and children after being shot in the head five times. The crime occurred six hours after a government inspection decided to stop the pipeline construction due to irregularities.
To date no one has been brought to justice for these killings. Even with the high rate of violence in the region of Mauá and all the threats faced by human rights defenders, the only police station covering the region was shut down on 13 February 2012.