We, from Brazil’s Landless, Denounce Syngenta and Its Crimes Against Humanity

Brazil's Landless and the police We, from the Landless Movement in Brazil (MST), would like to share with you the struggle of Via Campesina against the transnational company Syngenta Seeds, of Switzerland, and denounce the number of crimes which this company has committed against humanity in the Brazilian territory.

1. Summary Execution Crimes Against the Brazilian People:

On Sunday October 21st , at approximately 1:30 pm, after the reoccupation of the area, which took place in the early morning, more than 40 gunmen of a heavily armed militia organized in a fake security company called "NF Segurança", invaded the 'Acampamento Terra Livre' (Free land Camp), in an area of transgenic experiments, and openly executed our companion Valmir Mota de Oliveira, commonly known as Keno.

The other injured, Gentil Couto Viera, Jonas Gomes de Queiroz, Domingos Barretos, Izabel Nascimento de Souza and Hudson Cardin, were taken to hospitals in the region. Izabel was in a coma but has recovered. Unfortunately, she lost one of her eyes due to a gunshot.

This was one more episode of indignation. Keno was one among hundreds of militants of Via Campesina who have made public, both in Brazil and internationally, the environmental crimes that Syngenta has committed.

This tragedy, which took away the life of a young militant and 34 year-old father, shocked the worldwide supporters of land reform in Brazil.

This sad incident is added to the awful statistics concerning the number of deaths due to land disputes in Brazil. This has not been the first assassination of a member of the Landless Movement in the southern state of Paraná. In fact, Paraná is the state in Brazil with the highest rate of violence against landless rural workers.

In 2006, 76 cases of land conflict in Paraná were registered. Between 1994 and 2002, 16 landless workers were murdered, 31 were victims of assassination attempts, 47 suffered death threats, seven were tortured and 324 were injured. To date, not a single individual allegedly involved in these crimes has been punished.

Keno and two other members of the MST, Celso Ribeiro Barbosa and Célia Lourenço, had already suffered death threats, as shown by the offense reported to the police on March 28, 2006. On several occasions, Syngenta's security personnel shot into the Olga Benário Settlement, which is located beside a farm used for genetic experiments, in order to intimidate the resident families.

In all regions of the state of Paraná, groups of large rural producers have organized themselves to restrict any attempt of land reform. In the north-western region of Paraná, the Rural Democratic Union (UDR) is the predominant actor, and is also present in various other Brazilian states.

In the central-western region, the First Rural Command (PCR) is another example. In the western region, the Western Rural Society (SRO) deserves special attention. The SRO works under the leadership of the landowner Alessandro Meneghel, who also created the Rural Producer Movement (MPR) in April 2007. The aim of these initiatives is to organize heavily armed paramilitary groups to assassinate peasants and weaken social movements.

2. Syngenta's Environmental Crimes:

During 2006, the transnational company Syngenta Seeds cultivated experimental genetically modified crops in protected areas around the National Park of Iguaçu. This was an illegal act according to the Brazilian biosafety law, which states that no genetic experiment is allowed within 10 km of natural parks and conservation areas.

Syngenta's experiments had been undertaken in areas located 6 km from the National Park of Iguaçu. The transnational company was fined one million Brazilian reais (around US$ 570,000) by the Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA; however, to date, the company has not paid the fine.

The company Syngenta Seeds also makes use of the Atlantic forest national reserve, contaminating the biodiversity and producing harmful pollutants to the environment and human beings.

3. A Brief Historical Review:

In November 2006 the area's property was reassigned by the decree number 7,487 of the state governor Roberto Requião (PMDB). The area should be used for the implementation of the Paraná's Reference Center on Agroecology. This center was aimed at making possible agroecological research and production for the supply of the Brazilian market.

Syngenta, however, obtained in the Brazilian court the suspension of the decree as well as official land ownership of the area (127 hectares). When this decision was reached, the area had already been occupied (for the very first time) by 70 families from the Via Campesina, on March 14th 2006.

4. We Urge Social, Juridical and Environmental Justice:

I – We urge respect for Brazilian national sovereignty. We urge Syngenta to return to its country of origin, Switzerland;

II – We demand the enforcement of the Brazilian Constitution, which guarantees the right of land cultivation for the production of healthy food, without the use of toxic substances and genetically modified plants;

III – Punishment to all who planned and carried out the assassination of our companion Keno and all workers who have been murdered;

IV – Immediate disarmament of all false security companies hired and paid by Syngenta, and linked to agribusiness;

V – Reassignment of ownership of the area in question, due to all environmental crimes and crimes of murder committed by Syngenta;

VI – Guarantee the safety and protection of the lives of our leaders Celso and Célia, as well as of all workers from Via Campesina in the region. We do not want more bloodshed in Brazil;

VII – Syngenta must pay its debt of one million reais to the Brazilian state in compensation for the environmental damages in the state of Paraná;

VIII – The peasant's struggle continues so that the area of illegal experiments, which has been used by Syngenta, becomes a Center of Agroecology for the reproduction of seeds in support of family agriculture and land reform in Brazil.

The local public authorities, the Brazilian state and judiciary power, have shown their indifference to the punishment of those criminals involved in the assassination of landless workers.

This lack of action makes it possible for the murderers of Keno, Sebastião, Elias Meura, Anghinoni, Garibaldi and so many others killed in the Massacre of Camarazal (Pernambuco state), Eldorado dos Carajás (Pará) and Felisburgo (Minas Gerais), to remain free, unpunished. In addition, the lack of action contributes to the repetition of a history of death in the Brazilian rural areas.

We appreciate the solidarity received throughout Brazil and from all continents. Our commitment and struggle continue even with all suffering and bloodshed.

Land reform: For Social Justice and People's Sovereignty!

National Secretariat – MST


  • Show Comments (3)

  • Jo

    normal people denounce the landless movement
    Just to make sure another voice is added, many normal people, that means middle class, discreetly educated thinking individuals denounce the MST and others who invade land, cut down forests, breed criminals and take their bolivarian communist crazed ideas into the hinterlands of Brazil. While landowners are fiends, the landles movements are just base criminals. Its hard to choose a side in this fight. May they all fight each other into extinction, but lets protect the forests against both sides!

  • aes

    Keno was one among hundreds of militants . . .gun toting self proclaimed revolutionaries, protectorate of the under class, the oppressed. Get a lawyer. You do not have the right to abrogate the law as suits the necessity of your purpose. Since when is MST and all its alphabet soup constructs been given the executive power of enforcement? The grandiose language of the Secretariat of the MST verges on megalomania. They are for ” Social Justice and People’s Sovereignty!” Power to the people, bring back the hammer and the cycle. Join the government and go through the system as it exists. No Brazilian is extant from the law. Are your guns registered? And if not why not? Who gave you the right to vigilanty-ism? Your behavior and rhetoric is akin to the Maoists or the Stalinists, the only difference is the degree. The ill wind of MST’s rhetoric should be of far greater concern then the business of Syngenta.

  • ch.c.

    Poor Brazilians poors !
    Why dont you re-read the articles, YOU the MST. published on this site, just in the left colum :
    – We Got a Government We Did Not Elect, Says Brazil’s Landless Movement
    Written by MST
    Sunday, 14 August 2005
    The following excerpt is from a recent letter written by the National Secretary of the MST (Landless Workers’ Movement) about the current political crisis:

    1. Political Position of the Landless Movement

    Corruption, an endemic element of the privileged classes, takes possession of public resources in a state that is hardly democratic. In our current evaluation of the present crisis, illegal corruption exists and it generally benefits personal interests, using immoral and illegitimate practices that involve the appropriation of public resources by an economic group representing the dominant, elite class……. etc etc !

    But YOU LIED ! You voted massively for Lula TWICE !

    And this one too :

    And has the MST already forgotten what they wrote about Lula, 5 months ago, on this site ? :
    – Brazil’s Landless Break Up with Lula and Call Him Tragedy for Country, Monday June 18, 2007

    Ohh and stupid question : what has Syngenta to do with ALL the killings in Parana the MST are referring to…….from 1994…. ????
    From their 127 hectares ????
    Hmmmmm….doesnt smell right…but quite stinky by all means !

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