FAMILIES are being beaten up and driven from their land as their houses are burned in Brazil's Amazon region, Catholic bishops from the northern states of Para and Amapa have claimed.
"Priests, religious and trades unionists are also subjected to attacks and threats from landowners and the military police," the bishops said.
They warned that the violence against local communities would continue to intensify so long as those who were behind the terror campaign went unpunished.
Gunmen are able to arrange escapes from prison and the judicial authorities openly sided with those responsible for the crimes, the bishops said.
The bishops said that in recent weeks priests of Sao Felix do Xingu were repeatedly threatened and that a nun, Sr Marta Trancheski, had been arrested without cause in the same district by the public prosecutor. On some estates in the region a reign of terror existed, they said.
Last year the Pastoral Land Commission of the Brazilian bishops' conference recorded 401 instances of land conflicts resulting in 75 deaths.