Brazil: landless killed, arrested

On Aug. 20, Brazilian landless activists Josias de Barros Ferreira and Samuel Matias Barbosa were murdered at an encampment of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) in Pernambuco state. Police claim the two men were murdered by other landless workers at the encampment; the MST says they were killed “by people who infiltrated the encampment with the objective of demobilizing the landless workers and demoralizing the movement.” State police say the killers wanted $1,000 in compensation to give up their lands to a company building a gas pipeline near the MST encampment, and that Barros and Barbosa had refused the offer and demanded other lands in exchange for the deal.

On Aug. 21, Pernambuco state police arrested Jaime Amorim, the MST’s main leader in Pernambuco, on the PE-52 highway in Itaquitinga as he was leaving Barros’ funeral Barros and heading to Barbosa’s funeral. Amorim was arrested for missing a hearing; he faces charges for alleged material damages to public property and incitation, stemming from incidents at a November 2005 demonstration in front of the US consulate in Recife, where MST members were protesting the presence of US president George W. Bush.

In an Aug. 22 communique, the MST protested Amorim’s arrest as part of a “process of criminalization” of its members. “The police used all their apparatus to detain Amorim, but they do nothing to stop the murderers of our comrades Josias Barros and Samuel Matias Barbosa,” said the communique. “On the contrary, the police and some of the press want to make believe they were murdered by MST members and not by infiltrators.” (La Jornada, Mexico, Aug. 23 from DPA, AFP, Reuters; Adital, Aug. 23)

According to a statement from 25 social movement organizations protesting the murders and arrest, “It’s important to mention that Josias and Samuel were murdered in a cowardly way by people who, influenced by politicians of the region, tried to trick families of the Balanca encampment in Moreno municipality, trying to convince them to accept money to end their occupation on the edge of the highway.” (Adital, Aug. /23)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 27

See our last post on Brazil.