Brazil’s Landless Resist Police and Killer Militias

Police in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, arrest MST activist A Brazilian Military Brigade, under orders from sub-commander Paul Mendes, on Tuesday, June 3, destroyed a new encampment organized by the MST (Landless Rural Workers' Movement) along the side of Rio Grande do Sul state highway 40, in Viamão, in the South of Brazil.

The area was given to the families and to the MST.  Without judicial mandate, a force of more than a hundred military police and a battalion of elite troops destroyed the tents that were being constructed by the families.

The landless were separated and divided in groups of men and women.  Also, they were identified and investigated by the police.  The encampment was being constructed by families that are working temporarily in the rice harvest in the region of Viamão.

In protest against this act of the Military Brigade, 200 landless people decided to occupy Brazilian highway 386 close to the city of Nova Santa Rita and planned more protests.

The MST leader announced that they repudiate the action of the police, saying: "Rarely in the history of southern Brazil have the police and the state colluded to destroy an encampment still in formation.  Not only does the state government not resolve the problems of the landless people and farmers, but Governor Yeda Crusius represses the social movements and the poor families that claim their rights."

Landless Killed

Brazil's National Coordination of the Pastoral Commission on the Land (CPT) continues to protest the assassination of a landless peasant which occurred on the night of March 30, in the city of Ortigueira, in the southern state of Paraná.

Around 7:30 p.m., two hooded men broke into the home of Eli Dallemole, 42 years old, leader of the Movement of Rural Landless Workers (MST).  He was murdered in front of his family; his wife and three children.

He was leading the encampment Terra Livre, on the Compramil farm, in Ortigueira (near the toll station of the Brazilian highway 376), occupied since 2003.  He and the others were there for more than two years, repeatedly receiving death threats. 

On March 8 of last year, approximately 15 gunmen terrorized 35 families occupying the area and burned all of their belongings.  Children were threatened and roughed up, women and men were beaten and stripped to their underwear.  The families that were expelled have been taken in by neighboring settlements.

After the 2007 attack, seven gunmen were arrested at the scene by the police and taken to the Ortigueira police station. Following that police action, death threats against Dallemole increased.

The landless families had already reported activity of armed militias in the region, and there have been further reports to the Special Secretariat of Human Rights of the Federal Government and to the police.

The National Coordination of the CPT is demanding investigation of this crime and that an example be made of those responsible.  "It is unacceptable," they argue, "that in the 21st century such barbarous methods are still used against the rural poor and that the landowners recruit and maintain private militias to protect their properties in a manner that is unconstitutional.

"The leadership of the CPT is ensuring that it shows its solidarity to  the family of Eli and to the MST.  In spite of all that has happened we are certain that the blood of Eli was not spilled in vain.  It is going to be a seed of a new land, since the words of God directed at Cain echoes in our ears: "I hear the blood of your brother, crying out of the land to me." (Genesis 4:10).

MST – www.mst.org.br

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