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Brazzil - Land - June 2003

Brazil: Bullying and Death in the Countryside

The police investigated the site, made their report, and even succeeded in
arresting landowner Marcos Napoleão and three of his gunmen. However,
they were released the next day after a judicial hearing. Part of the tragedy
of this incident is that the workers lost all of their personal legal documents
in the fire and now cannot enroll their kids in school.


 

On June 4, nearly 1,500 workers without land were planting a piece of land they were occupying when suddenly they were attacked by a group of gunmen headed by the owner of the land in question, Marcos Napoleão. One worker, Antônio Alves da Silva, 43, was killed and 10 more were wounded. A woman, a 14 year-old girl and a man are in serious condition.

The ranch where the incident happened is located in the municipality of Jacaraú, 65 kilometers from the capital city João Pessoa, state of Paraíba. The landless workers occupied the 400 hectares of land in August of 2001. The families asked the government agency in charge of agrarian reform, INCRA, to inspect the land, but were denied their request. Another agency, INTERPA (Institute of Land of Paraíba) were to take the responsibility of resolving the problem, but so far has done nothing. The families have already been evicted, threatened, and have suffered assassination attempts. Currently, the families are encamped near the ranch and continue to plant and harvest to guarantee food supplies for themselves.

Marcos Napoleão, the ranch owner, is known in Paraíba to be an arms trafficker. His house has already been inspected after he was accused of forming private armies. Inspectors found arms and ammunition.

In September of last year, the same group of families was threatened by Napoleão and his henchmen. After not heeding to the threats, the group was attacked by the gunmen. In this incident, two workers were shot and wounded, and all of the families' shacks were burned down. Some children received burn wounds from the fires.

A state representative, Franciscan priest Friar Anastácio, asked the state police to look into the incident. The police investigated the site, made their report, and even succeeded in arresting Napoleão and three of his gunmen. However, they were released the next day after a judicial hearing. Part of the tragedy of this incident is that the workers lost all of their personal legal documents in the fire. Therefore, they have not been able to enroll their children in the schools because they lack the proper documentation. They have been to the Secretary of Justice of Paraíba, but still have not been able to resolve anything.

The latest incident is just one more of many that have happened not only against this group of families but against many others who are trying to earn their survival by working the land. The incident highlights the incompetence of the public powers of the state to hold accountable those who are perpetrating the violence against these workers. There have already been demonstrations, public audiences, and denouncements in the press concerning threats, aggressions, tortures and murders by not only henchmen but the police of the state. But to this day, these violent acts continue.

The large landowners of Paraíba and their comrades in government positions have been an embarrassment to Brazil. Numerous foreign delegations representing prestigious international entities have witnessed and documented the horror of violence and the disrespect of human rights happening in the countryside. The most serious cases have already been brought before the U.N.'s Commission on Human Rights, and the OAS's Interamerican Commission on Human Rights.

According to the Northeast section of the Pastoral Land Commission, the former federal and state public administration of INCRA and INTERPA, the Secretariat of Public Security of Paraíba and principal authorities should be held responsible for what they call incompetence and delays in dealing with the agrarian conflicts in the region. They say, "They are not giving due respect to the dignity which each citizen deserves. Such disastrous performance only allows for the tragedies we have witnessed."

 

This material was supplied by Sejup, which has its own Internet site: http://www.oneworld.net/sejup  

 



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