Brazil: police attack landless camp

On Nov. 29, shock troops from the Military Police of Sao Paulo state in Brazil invaded the Elizabeth Teixeira encampment of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) in the Tatu Forest Plot in Limeira municipality near Campinas. The police agents destroyed makeshift homes and violently evicted the 250 families living on the encampment, which has been occupied by the MST since April 21, 2007. The police operation left some 30 people injured, some of them hit by police rubber bullets. MST leader Gilmar Mauro and Jose de Arimateia, coordinator of the encampment, were among those injured. The National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) had promised the MST that there would be negotiations to prevent an eviction. The MST blames the state government and the local authorities of Limeira for the police operation. (Adital, Nov. 29 from Prensa MST; Agencia Brasil, Nov. 29)

On Oct. 21, MST activist Valmir Mota de Oliveira—known as Keno—was killed by armed guards hired by the multinational company Syngenta in an armed attack on an MST encampment at the company’s illegal experimental field of transgenic crops on a nature reserve near the Iguazu National Park in Parana state. One month later, a Parana state police investigation blamed the attack on nine private guards and the owner of the NF Seguranca security company, Nerci Freitas. Guard Fabio Ferreira also died during the attack, and a number of MST members were wounded. The police investigation cleared the MST of any responsibility in the attack.

The MST had been occupying the Syngenta fields since March 2006 to protest the company’s illegal actions; the campesinos had developed an experimental center for ecological seeds at the site. The families occupying the site had withdrawn in July 2007 following a court order as they waited for a ruling in a lawsuit against Syngenta. Early on Oct. 21, 150 MST members returned to occupy the site to exert pressure for a definitive resolution in the case. Later the same day, a school bus carrying 40 armed guards from NF Seguranca arrived at the encampment and let loose a barrage of gunfire. The guards then moved in on the encampment while still shooting. At the encampment’s guard post, the private guards killed Oliveira-Keno with two shots to the chest and shot MST leader Isabel Nascimento de Souza in the head after apparently confusing her with another MST leader, Celia Aparecida Lourenco. The guards were apparently seeking to assassinate Aparecida, Oliveira-Keno and Celso Barbosa; had all received prior death threats. But de Souza survived the attack, and witnessed as the guards drag off Ferreira—a member of their own force—already wounded. They stripped Ferreira of his NF Seguranca uniform and left him by the side of the road to die. Syngenta has admitted hiring NF Seguranca, but claims it didn’t authorize the use of weapons. (America Latina en Movimiento-ALAI, Nov. 27)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 2

See our last post on the struggle in Brazil.