Monday, April 08, 2013


“We take the land from one hand and put it in the hands of a thousand...landowners would only use this land for cattle, and now we produce beans, milk, food, for the entire population.” – Ilda Martines de Souza, a leader of Brazil’s landless farmer movement. 

Land reform activists are still being murdered in Brazil and not much is being done about it.  The latest killing is that of MST leader Fabio Santos da Silva (see post below).

Rural worker and MST activist Cícero Guedes was assassinated by gunmen on Friday, January 25 near the Cambahyba Mill, in the township of  Campos dos Goytacazes.  He was shot in the head as he left the settlement on his bicycle.  The MST leader was cut down by at least 10 bullets in an ambush in the pre-dawn hours.

MST activists said 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.

Guedes fought tirelessly against the use of toxic pesticides in agriculture, in addition to fighting injustice. He was a sugarcane cutter in the northern state of Alagoas before joining MST in 1996 and obtaining a plot of land in the Zumbi dos Palmares settlement.
A father of five, Guedes ran an agroecological farm and was regularly to be found at organic produce markets, as well as participating in local coordination with the government food purchasing programme, which buys produce from family farms to provide school meals.

“He was a real symbol, and (his murder) sends a powerful message to the MST, which is organising the land claims of rural workers in the area,” one of the MST national directors, Marcelo Durão, told IPS.

“We are in conflict with the forces of oppression in the region,” he said, and he described Guedes as “a staunch activist, consistent and very focused on the struggle for land, as well as an authority on agroecological production.”

 Maria de Oliveira, former superintendent of the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform in Pernambuco and technical director of the Institute of Land and Agrarian Reform of Pernambuco said at the time, 
The death is the sign that the authorities are incapable of seeing what is so visible, which is impunity. It’s cowardice not to carry out agrarian reform, even more cowardice not to punish the killers and even more to allow the slowness of the bureaucracy not to do its part, leading the workers to death. Each one has a piece of the blame. It’s necessary to react, we are going to oppose the crimes of agrarian reform, one of the ways is to do it.

While the Brazilian State does not carry out agrarian reform, does not take a position in relation to the concentration of land, the Brazilian people and primarily those who struggle in an organized way, continue to die at the hands of power. We have no way to arrive at peace in the countryside without agrarian reform.

Eleven days later Regina dos Santos Pinho was killed.  A leader of the MST, Marina dos Santos, stated:

It is a barbaric crime. We want to emphasize the level of brutality of this murder and the motivations that this brutality elucidated. In principle, we see no direct relationship with the land struggle and the murder of Cicero. But we cannot rule anything out nor affirm anything.

Regina was active in the MST for a decade. The police were contacted by neighbors who were surprised at the absence of the militant at the mass of Sétimo Dia de Cícero Guedes, held on Monday (February 4, 2013). Regina and Cicero were very close and both worked on agroecology in the Zumbi of Palmares settlement.

Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) in Portugueseis a mass social movement, formed by rural workers and by all those who want to fight for land reform and against injustice and social inequality in rural areas.  As a grassroots socialist organization, MST promotes land reform as a means of achieving social equality for landless rural farmers. It organises occupations of unproductive land, on the basis of which it negotiates with the state or federal authorities to transfer that land to the peasants. The occupying campesinos work the land productively, providing an escape from poverty and providing them with a dignified, self­sufficient existence. MST then invites the government to take the next step — formalising the settlements and providing education, health and other services.

The last twenty five years have seen an increasing numbers of landless workers joining the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, It’s, in fact, the largest social movement in Latin America

According to War on Want:
In Brazil less than 3% of the population owns two-thirds of the land and more than half the farmland lies idle. Four million homeless, landless and jobless peasant farmers are denied a decent living.

The conflict over land, with homeless peasants on one side, and landowners’ armed thugs and the police on the other, has plagued Brazil for decades. The conflict has left over one thousand landless peasants murdered, and landless and rural people face malnutrition, lack of access to clean water, sanitation and basic health or education services, and a lifetime spent in roadside shantytowns of black plastic tents.

Writing about their recent visit to Brazil, delegates from Trident Ploughshares point out:

Some 90 million people, two ­thirds of the population, are landless peasants or slum dwellers excluded from land by this concentration of ownership. Their conditions of life are among the worst in the world: high infant mortality, millions of destitute street children in the cities and, in the countryside, situations sometimes akin to slavery, where workers are controlled by the landlord’s hired gunmen.

The struggle of the landless in Brazil is a leading component in the fight against global capital and Empire.  This self organized and fearless campaign carried out by the landless themselves stands as an example of "how its done."

The following is from Friends of the MST.

Landless demand justice during the funeral for MST leader in Bahia

funeralMST leader  Fábio Santos da Silva, assassinated on April 2 by 15 shots fired by gunmen in Iguaí, in the Southwest of Bahia, was buried on April 3. 

The vigil for the body began in the Rural Community of Ribeirão das Flores and afterwards the body was taken to the City Hall of Iguaí, where the city can follow and share this moment of mourning and show solidarity with the grief of the family, friends, and men and women comrades in mourning.

On leaving the City Hall, families, friends, and MST activists held a march to the end of the city to accompany the coffin. On the way, a lot of music and chanting showed the people’s anger.

“This march has the goal of establishing a dialog with society in the sense of denouncing what happened and demanding that justice be done and the killers do not remain unpunished”, said the Federal Deputy Valmir Assunção (PT-BA).

The MST leadership states that the activists in the region are suffering continuous threats aimed at weakening the Movement’s struggle, trying to prevent new occupations and mobilizations.  After the march, the body was taken back to the Rural Community, where Fábio was buried alongside other family members.

“How many times are our peasants and workers assassinated? It’s this type of action, killing by gunmen, which is so cowardly and cruel, that we are facing in the Brazilian countryside. This killing, with clear signs that it was an execution, cannot go unpunished. Fábio, who was also a candidate for assemblyman for the Workers Party in the region, was a great fighter, comrade, and activist in social causes. Like every MST activist, he wanted to see Agrarian Reform put into effect”, added Valmir Assunção.

“Companheiro Fábio, here we are continuing your struggle. I am in solidarity with your family.  Fábio, presente, presente, presente! The  MST is in mourning",  he concluded in his homage to the landless leader.  


Since 2010, starting with occupations carried out by families from the Mother Earth Encampment in Iguaí, the MST activists of the region began to receive threats from the owners of the big estates.

Faced with the threats, the Movement called a meeting with the Agrarian Auditor. In this way the activists placed the offensive of the estate owners against the struggle for expropriation of land for the purpose of agrarian reform, and nothing was done. 

Because of this indifference, Fábio Santos was killed. This is why the Landless are demanding justice from the court.

Violence in the Countryside

The Pastoral Land Commission registered 29 killings of rural workers in conflicts in the countryside in 2011. A smaller number than 2010, when 34 workers were killed.

However there was an increase of 178% in the number of workers who received death threats.

The data shows that in the countryside in the first four months of 2010, 12 workers were killed in conflicts in the countryside. In the same period in 2011, eight were killed.

This shows that violence continues and the impunity for the killers and those who make threats persist

No comments: