Brazil landless leader Cicero Guedes shot dead in Rio

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A leader of the landless movement in Brazil, Cicero Guedes, has been killed in Rio de Janeiro state.

Mr Guedes, 43, was shot dead on Saturday as he was cycling home.

He was killed near a former sugar plant which members of the landless movement, or MST, have occupied.

Non-governmental organisations say the number of landless activists killed over the past years has fallen but that the number of death threats issued against them has almost tripled.

Legal battle

The MST campaigns for land reform and the rights of landless workers and is considered the best organised social movement in Brazil.

MST activists said Mr Guedes, a sugar-cane cutter, had led the occupation of the Usina Cambahyba sugar plant in Campos, 285km (180 miles) north-east of Rio de Janeiro.

The sugar plant has been at the centre of a long-running legal battle between the landless and the heirs of its deceased owner.

A judge ruled last year that the plant and its surrounding land totalling about 3,500 hectares (8,600 acres) was "unproductive" and should be expropriated.

The heirs are appealing against the decision.

The MST, who had occupied the land for six years before being moved by police in 2006, staged a second occupation in November in an attempt to pressure the courts into speeding up their decision.

The Catholic Church's Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) says conflicts over land in Brazil have risen and the number of activists threatened has jumped from 125 to 347 between 2010 and 2011.

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