December 18, 2012
On Tuesday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff honored Catalonia-born bishop Pedro Casaldaliga and 16 other people for their work in defense of human rights.
Casaldaliga could not receive the award in person since he is in hiding in an unknown location under the protection of the federal police due to a surge in the threats he has been receiving for years for his work on behalf of the indigenous people.
Rousseff stated that Brazil "learned to admire" Casaldaliga and Bishop Tomás Balduíno, who was also honored for his support for the indigenous, and she said that she is proud to be a "contemporary" of both men. The president stated that the Brazilian government will devote "all available means and police and civilian forces" to ensure the safety and protection of those who work "to defend the excluded."
The Brazilian president asserted that the defense of human rights is "very important" to her and her generation, because "they have personally felt the abuse of power and truculence of the state."
The bishop, who is 84 and suffering from Parkinson's, left the town of Sao Félix do Araguaia, in a jungle area in the state of Mato Grosso, a week ago due to threats.
The Consejo Indigenista Misionero (CIMI), an organization with ties to the Brazilian bishops, reported that the threats had doubled in recent weeks, apparently due to an imminent court decision, that seemingly will find in favor of the Xavante people in a land dispute.
The Xavante have counted for over two decades on the support and solidarity of Casaldaliga, who came in 1968 to this remote corner of the state of Mato Grosso, where he stayed to live with the dispossessed.
Photos: Bishop Pedro Casaldaliga (top); Bishop Tomas Balduino (bottom)