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English Report

The Comissão Pastoral da Terra (Pastoral Land Commission) registered 61murders of rural workers in the period between January and October 2003. Between 1985 and 2002, 1.280 murders were registered among rural workers, lawyers, technicians, religious people and rural worker's leaders who were engaged in the legal fight for land. From this number of 1.280, only 121 had a trial. Only 14 of the people responsible for the murders were judged. Only seven were found guilty. Another four intermediates were judged, two were found guilty. From the 96 executioners judged, 58 were found guilty.

Latifundium Crimes

Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos,
Comissão Pastoral da Terra,
Centro de Direitos Humanos Evandro Lins e Silva e
Instituto Carioca de Criminologia

The background of violence in rural areas in Brazil is due to a huge fundiary concentration. Although land reform is seen by specialists and Brazilian people as a fair and necessary measure to be taken, there is today a campaign by conservative groups to avoid its implementation. A recent report by the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) says that "rural elites in Brazil (...) try by all means to create a socially unstable environment to influence public opinion so that the government adopts cohercitive and punitive measures against workers' movements eventually avoiding the implementation of the land reform".
According to Professor Monica Martins, from the Rede Social (Social Network), conservative forces opposed to the reform, also resist against any changes related to income distribution in the country. She states that, "land reform is the most feasible and democratic way to assure work and food to the people. This is an enduring, fast and cheap way of generating employment at costs lower than in industry, distribute income, contain migration to the cities and eradicate poverty in large population contingents. It also contributes to transform political relations in the rural area, assuring rural workers the civilian rights".
The Brazilian Constitution says in article 184: "It is within the power of the State to expropriate, for purposes of land reform, the rural property which is not performing its social function, against prior and fair compensation in agrarian debt bonds with a clause providing for maintenance of the real value, redeemable within a period of up to twenty years computed as from the second year of issue, and the use of which shall be defined in the law".
Hence, expropriation of lands that do not fulfill their social function is not of punitive character, since there are mechanisms of economical compensation even for those who took a public property - land- as a private property for the sole purpose of speculation. What determines the social function of the land is the level of productivity, and criteria including environment preservation and workers' rights.

Land Concentration and Non-Productive Latifundium

Statistics reveal that land concentration in Brazil is one of the higher in the world. The number of landowners with more than 1000 hectares is not more than 50 thousand. Nearly 1% own around 46% of the lands. Only 60 million of the 400 million hectares of private property are used for crops plantation. The other part of the land destined for cattle raising is underused, or, even worse, not used at all. Data from Incra (Agrarian Reform Institute) show that around 100 million hectares of land in Brazil are not being used.
According to Frei Betto, special advisor for the Presidency, Brazil has more than 600 million arable hectares, 250 million are wasteland areas and 285 million are mostly unproductive latifundia. He continues saying that 138 million hectares are held by only 28 thousand large landowners, and 85 million hectares are held by only 4236 proprietors.
On the other hand, there are around 4.8 million families of "landless" rural workers, that is, living as squatters, lease-holders, sharecroppers or with properties of less than 5 hectares. The best lands are destined to monoculture of export items such as orange, sugarcane, soy, cotton and coffee. At the same time, 40 million people in Brazil are in starvation; the vast majority of them are in rural areas.
The small farmers are responsible for the bigger portion of the production, and also for the generation of employment in the rural zones. Therefore, land reform in Brazil is fundamental to resolve social and cultural problems in the country. While the subject of land concentration continues on debate, the violence against rural workers raises and impunity for latifundium crimes continues.

Violence and Impunity

The Comissão Pastoral da Terra (Pastoral Land Commission) registered 61murders of rural workers in the period between January and October 2003. Between 1985 and 2002, 1.280 murders were registered among rural workers, lawyers, technicians, religious people and worker's organizations leaders who were engaged in the legal fight for land. From this number of 1.280, only 121 had a trial. Only 14 of the responsible for the murders were judged. Only 7 were found guilty by the Court. Another 4 intermediates were judged, 2 were found guilty. From the 96 executioners judged, 58 were found guilty.
In that same period, 6330 rural workers were arrested due to their political activities related to the fight for land reform. In 2001, 29 murders and 254 arbitrary imprisonments of rural workers occurred. In the next year, 158 peasants were arrested. In 2002, there were 43 murders, 20 homicide attempts, and 73 death threats; 44 people were physically assaulted and 20 were tortured. These numbers show that, historically, rural violence is directed against landless workers.
Provisory Measure No. 2.027, of May 04, 2000, during the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, created more difficulties for the land reform. This law says that "rural property object of dispossesion or invasion motivated by agrarian or fundiary conflicts will not be checked in the following two years from the disoccupation of the property. In case of reoccupation of the referred property, this term will be doubled."
Such measure is unconstitutional since Brazilian Constitution does not warrant immunity for rural property dispropriation. It serves as a repression instrument against the occupation of unproductive latifundium by social movements.
UN Special Rapporteur, Jean Ziegler, was in Brazil from March 1st to 18, 2002, elaborating a research that reveals that land reform combined with support for little producers can eradicate starvation. Property would be the access to food in the internal market. To accomplish this task, the Rapporteur recommends fast dispropriations, repression against land grabbing, implementation of the project that limits the size of rural properties, and abrogation of the provisory measure that prohibits dispropriation of lands occupied by landless workers.
Below are some examples of serious violence crimes against rural workers in areas where repression is much more severe like in the states of Pará, Paraná, Paraíba, Pernambuco and São Paulo.


In the last decade, hundreds of peasants were victims of violent conflicts for land property. A survey performed by the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) shows that till October 2003, 35 murders of rural workers were registered in the State. In the first semester of 2003, 20 rural workers were arrested during evictions. Between 1971 and 2002, 726 peasants were killed. The major part - 547 - happened in the south and southeast regions of the State of Pará.
Today, there are around 20 thousand landless families in the State living in camping sites. Without a solution from the government, some conflicts are running for more than 5 years. There are several of these camping sites in the cities of São Félix do Xingu, Tucuruí, Rondon do Pará and Marabá.
It is important to emphasize that a new type of conflict is becoming serious in the State. In Southeast and Baixo Amazonas regions there is a dispute for the property of land for soy plantation by the so-called "Gaúchos". Tens of land grabbers, coming mainly from Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, expelled the settlers with great violence in a harsh dispute for the land. In Altamira, Porto de Moz, Itaituba, Almerim, Monte Alegre and Prainha, land grabbers expelled traditional populations and occupied the lands along the rivers and roads.


Paraná may be considered one of the Brazilian states with higher occurrence of violations against rural workers. The situation became especially serious during Jaime Lerner administration, when a repressive policy against these workers was established. The Security Agency started a series of evictions of the landless families. In that occasion, elite groups of the Military Police - Anti-Kidnapping Group, Eagle Group and Groups of Special Operations (GOE and COPE) - were deployed by the state government to surround the sites were these occupations occurred.
Representatives of the CPT say that Jaime Lerner administration was responsible for the violence wave resulting in the assassination of 16 workers. Moreover, 31 people were victims of homicide attempts, 47 were threatened, and 7 were tortured. The number of injured reached 324, while the number of arrested reached 488, in 134 actions of eviction.
The administration Roberto Requião has been treating the fight for land in a democratic way, what lead farmers to act alone. Ruralists intimidate workers by organizing armed militia. Even a list with names of landless workers to be killed was found recently. This list would have been prepared in April, in Campo Mourão, during a farmers meeting. They have been putting pressure on the government to carry on evictions of landless families. These actions are opposed to the pacifist way the government has been treating the agrarian subject.
One of those included in the list is the rural worker Francisco Nascimento de Souza, 27, killed in August 4, 2003, in Mariluz, Northwest of the State. He was shot eight times on the back when he was riding a motorcycle from the city to the settlement Nossa Senhora Aparecida, where he lived.
In June 18, 2003, farmers from Ponta Grossa launched a movement called "Movement for Land Reform without Invasions". According to this document the main concern of farmers "falls on the possibility of these camping sites to turn into points of concentration of MST members to launch a wave of invasions in other rural areas. Our worries are also increased when it is evident that the State Government is not taking necessary measures to comply with judicial orders of reintegration of possession, what extends the occupation of the lands, causing damages and contretemps to owners of invaded lands".


Since the colonial period, land concentration in Pernambuco has been noticed for the permanent monoculture of sugarcane commanded by big latifundium owners. After the bankruptcy in the sector, rural workers started to claim possession and utilization of unproductive lands.
Marluce Cavalcante de Melo, advisor of the Pastoral Land Commission, says that unemployed people were expelled from rural areas and now are living in city suburbs. They are now socially excluded people serving companies as cheap labor, labor work reserve and clandestine work. She continues saying that in Pernambuco, in the last 15 years, more than 150 thousand posts disappeared due to the crisis in sugar and alcohol sectors. The region has more than 40 thousand families camped in unproductive lands.
In Pernambuco, from 1995 to 2001, 14 murders of rural workers occurred, and 43 cases of torture, 232 arbitrary imprisonments, 416 cases of physical aggression, and 842 land conflicts. From 2002 to October 2003, 9 people were killed.

Repression and Eviction

One of the most serious area of conflicts is located in Usina Aliança. The company fired more than one thousand workers without paying any labor right. Shut down since 1996 with huge debts towards Banco do Brasil, Usina has, in 1998, liabilities superior to R$ 250 million. Cheated in the labor deals, these fired people stayed in the area since 1996, claiming the land reform. Dispropriation of unproductive lands of Usina Aliança depends on a decision of the Judge of the 7ª Federal Court.
In 2003, entities linked to human rights participated in the defense of rural workers who were threatened of eviction in Engenho Prado, region of Nazaré da Mata. CPT lawyers argued that the improvements and plantations made by those workers were estimated in R$ 5 million. This shows the economical viability of that community. Engenho Prado was closed 30 years ago. With claims for its dispropriation, João Santos Group promised to implement a reforestation project in that area.
Lawyers intend to retain the property until the landless families receive compensations and due legal procedures are observed. The defense of the rural workers was rejected by the judge of Nazaré da Mata, Carlos Alberto Maranhão. He denied access of the lawyers to the lawsuit, by giving attention to the João Santos Group lawyers while the eviction was carried out on June 3rd, 2003. All petitions and requirements presented by the workers were ignored by the judge, who determined the eviction and demolition of houses, churches and plantations made by 300 families who lived in the area for 6 years.
Moreover, MST State Command adds that workers camped for 5 years in Engenho Ajudante - property of Usina Aliança - suffer Constant threats and humiliation from gunmen who have already destroyed many times their plantations, poisoned their water, and shot against their families. In April this year, a worker was injured by gunmen.
I August 2003, a strange movement of cars and motorcycles was noticed around campings in the region of Mata Norte. Witnesses said it were gunmen looking for the MST leaders Luíza, Ivanildo, José Severino and Sebastião. In Settlement Morojosinho where Luiza lives, gunmen came to her house holding their guns and threatened her again. The four leaders immediately left the region, but the fear remains. Their relatives and families continue to be threatened.
In 1998, during a sugarcane workers strike in Usina Santa Teresa, property of João Santos Group, the rural worker Luiz Carlos was shot on the back of his head. Other 13 land workers were injured on the back. Military Police officers and gunmen repressed with gun shots the strike manifestations. The penal action filed is still hearing the defendants.
In 2002, security guards of Usina Petribú kidnapped and tortured 2 teenagers who, hungry, were eating fruits in the lands of the Usina. After denounces of several entities, Abrinq Foundation suspended the seal of "Friend of the Children". Although entities have filed penal actions, the responsible were not yet punished.


From 1995 to 2001, in Paraíba, 4 murders, 14 cases of torture and 333 cases of physical aggression or injuries against rural workers were registered in 218 conflicts in rural areas. There were also 187 imprisonments and lawsuits against pastoral officers and rural workers. From 2002 to October 2003, 1 person was killed.
In the morning of July 4, 2003, around 1.500 landless workers who were working in the Farm São José, city of Jacaraú, 65 km from João Pessoa, were surprised by an armed group commanded by the owner of the farm Marcos Napoleão. Antônio Alves da Silva, 43, was shot and other 10 landless workers were injured, 3 of them were seriously injured.
On August 5, 2001, 50 families occupied the property based on the Provisory Measure 2029, which reads "occupied lands will not be checked", asked by workers, Incra denied checking the property. The Instituto de Terra da Paraíba (INTERPA) (Paraíba Institute of Land) promised to send proposals to solve the problem. Nothing has been done yet.
Proprietor Marcos Napoleão, had his house checked by the Parliament Commission of Inquiry of the Legislative Assembly that investigated denounces of militia formation in the state and violence in rural areas. In that occasion, guns and ammunition were found. Napoleão is known in Paraíba as a guns smuggler.

Frei Anastácio

On August 6, 2003, State Representative and CPT ex-coordinator, Frei Anastácio, was sentenced by the Court of Justice of Paraíba, to 2 years and 2 months of prison. He received also a fine of 10 minimum wages for gang formation and qualified homicide. CPT says there were political reasons for that. The rapporteur of the lawsuit mentioned the military coup in 1964, saying that "for less than that the military came into power".

Violent Eviction and Imprisonments

Around 1 AM on August 9, 2003, the camping in Farm Santa Luzia, in the city of Cruz do Espírito Santo, was invaded by 7 people. Among them was MP Seargent Jaime Pessoa da Cunha. Armed with rifles, the soldiers put the families out and took 3 workers as hostages. They were freed in the morning around 15 km from the place. Barracks and houses were destroyed by the police. The soldiers also burned peoples' personal objects and destroyed nearly 150 hectares of plantations.
Since June 2002, 8 rural workers who were camped in Farm Mendonça, city of Itabaiana were arrested. Incra checked the place and classified the area as an unproductive latifundium. Farmers, gunmen and policemen threatened these workers many times. The disappearance of the rural worker Almir Muniz, in June 2002, made the situation even worse.
On August 9, 2002, 84 inmates escaped from the prison Silvio Porto, where 8 workers were arrested. Members of CPT are worried about physical integrity and safety of the inmates. This year, 5 rebellions occurred in that place. Cells are not locked during the night and the inmates control the place. This situation was denounced after a visit of Dom Pedro Casaldáliga and Frei Anastácio to the prison.

Death and Imprisonment Threats

On July 22, 2003, CPT denounced death threats in Alagoas. In the two first months of the year, the Commission reported that Sister Cícera Menezes was being threatened by farmers. The accusation was: supporting landless families from Settlement Jubileu 2000, in the city of São Miguel dos Milagres. For denouncing clandestine work in the city of Colônia, Sister Lígia Dellacorte, CPT officer, was threatened by phone.
In the region of Mata Norte, gunmen linked to the mayor of União dos Palmares would be planning the killing of 2 CPT officers - Carlos Lima and José Severino - and members of MST - José Carlos and José Cícero e Cristiano. According to CPT, a witness confirmed the meeting of the mayor with the gunmen.
On August 5, 2003, landless families camped in the north of Alagoas organized a manifestation on the road of Porto de Pedras. They were asking for the food promised by the Minister of Agrarian Development, Miguel Rosseto, and Incra/Alagoas Superintendent, Mário Agra, when visiting a settlement in Alagoas, one month before. They promised the distribution of basic items for 10 thousand families in the state.
Judge Rivoldo Sarmento, went to the place with the police and arrested 8 workers without any reason. One of them was 71 years old, two other were underaged. According to the judge, the imprisonments were done because the families were asking for money on the road. However, there was not any report at local police stations. In 1999, the same judge arrested 5 landless leaders without any legal or reasonable reasons.
In the afternoon of August 17, 2003, the camping Lucena was invaded by 6 hooded man holding heavy guns. They took 7 people and humiliate and beat them. A child was among the victims. The group also beat a person who was passing by the place.
CPT sent these reports to the Incra Superintendency, State Government, National Agrarian Agency, Public Ministry and State Council for Human Rights.
Farm Lucena, in Porto de Pedras, has 393 hectares and was dispropriated in November 2002. The camping was created in the following month and has now 32 families.

Violence in the Camping

On June 21, 2003, 87 families were camped along the road that goes from Monte Alegre to Pão de Açucar (Alagoas state), next to Niterói village, city of Porto da Folha (Sergipe state), with the objective of claiming the farms around, such as Niterói and Saco Grande, property of Orlando Rocha Filho, with nearly 1.500 hectares.
A week after that, a group of men holding pistols, machine guns and rifles invaded the camping threatening men, women and children. Although not wearing uniforms, some policemen were recognized: Giovane, known as son of Heloi de Monte Alegre; Jair, MP Corporal, who serves in Niterói; Agilton, who also serves in Niterói; other 2 were recognized as policemen from Arapiraca (AL); and also the administrator of the Farm Niterói, known as Junior - or Burrego.

Death in the Rural Zone

The body of landless worker Luiz Bispo dos Santos, 42, was found in a swamp on July 12, 2003. Disappeared for 4 days, Luiz Bispo was one of the coordinators of the camping in Farm Berta Grande.
MST believes that the worker was killed. He was being threatened by the owner of the farm, known as Dr. Luiz, and by his 2 sons. On July 7, the farmer threatened the victim with a pistol.

São Paulo

Main cases of human rights violation against rural workers in the State of São Paulo occurred in the region of Pontal do Paranapanema. According to the lawyer Patrick Mariano Gomes, "in 2002, a criminalization strategy against social movements in Brazil was started in the City of Teodoro Sampaio. A group of Prosecutors in the region, aiming to legally fit the claims for land reform from the MST, made several criminal denounces against workers who were members of the movement".
These violations arise as a reaction of the latifundia against the popularity MST gained in the region, specially since 1990. The lawyer Marcos Rogério de Souza reveals that thanks to MST, between 1990 and 1999, 94 rural settlements were implemented with 6066 families assisted.
Arbitrary Imprisonmentss

Preventive imprisonments without legal basis are the main means of repression against MST in Pontal do Paranapanema. Usually, the reason presented for these decisions is the supposed assurance of public order. The workers are accused of gang formation for organizing manifestations and campings claiming for land reform.
Although no land occupations occurred in the region in one year, judge Átis de Araújo Oliveira, from the City of Teodoro Sampaio, in Pontal do Paranapanema, issued 12 imprisonment orders involving 46 members of the movement between August 2002 and November 2003. All these decisions were annulled in superior courts.
However, this has not limited the actions of the judge of the City of Teodoro Sampaio, who still persecute the workers. Repression against MST in Pontal do Paranapanema is of strict political character with the objective of repressing concerns of the movement about the intense environmental degradation made by the latifundia, abandonment and unproductivity of more than 90% of Pontal total area, land grabbing and bad distribution of lands.
In a habeas corpus that discussed the legal basis of the imprisonment of 5 members of MST in that region, Supreme Court of Justice (STJ) Minister, Luiz Vicente Cernichiario, vote proffered in judicial decision No. 5.574/SP, states that the MST "is not a movement to take others properties. It is a movement to put pressure - that is why I say 'expression of the right of citizenship' - on the land reform issue".
Recently, Minister Paulo Medina, of the Sixth Group of STJ, granted freedom to Valmir Rodrigues Chaves and Mário Barreto, MST members in Pontal, and wrote that: "these missionary members of MST, who fight and sacrifice themselves for more reasonable means of living where social dignity can only be restored in the moment when the real, necessary and essential land reform is done in Brazil". He continues, "while uncertainty of results and political actions endures, there will be riots and growing dissatisfaction of the less favored in the economical, social and political scenario in Brazil".
Rio Grande do Sul

Documents prepared by the CNBB (National Conference of Bishops of Brazil), in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, show that the higher concentration of lands is in the Região da Campanha, one of the poorest areas in the state. This concentration is originated from the Portuguese and pilgrims occupation in the eighteenth century, who expelled indian communities and took possession of the land and cattle.

São Gabriel

On August 11, 2003, the CNBB released a document saying that "The city of São Gabriel, with 539 thousand hectares of area, is an example of land concentration in the State. There are 1.3 thousand properties with up to 100 hectares, representing 72% of producers in the city, but this means only 20 thousand hectares, which are less than 4% of the total of lands. On the other side are 122 landowners of areas of 1 to 10 thousand hectares, occupying an area of 208 thousand hectares, or 38% of the total of the lands. The Farm Southall, with 13.2 thousand hectares, dispropriated by the Federal Government, is larger than 133 cities in the state and according to Incra, is unproductive and has high debts with banks and with the State". Southall's debt with INSS, Banco do Brasil and other public agencies is estimated in R$ 32 million.
In August, the Federal Supreme Court maintained the suspension of the dispropriation decree of the Southall complex. Considering the excuse that the proprietor was not formally informed about Incra visit, Minister Ellen Gracie suspended the dispropriation. MST denounces that the proprietor was actually in the place forbidding the visit of Incra personnel. The visit was only possible with police protection.

Fascist Leaflets

Leaflets with fascist content against social movements are being distributed by latifundium owners as a way of fostering violence. In July 2003, a pacific march of MST was blocked by armed farmers in an attempt to intimidate the people who were going to São Gabriel. Representative Frei Sérgio Gorgen asked the government to grant the workers the right of free manifestation and circulation. However, the right to come and go was denied to MST by the Justice.
In June 2003, São Gabriel farmers distributed the following leaflet:
"People of São Gabriel, do not permit that your city, so well treated in these years, is stained by the dirty feet of the human scum. (...) We do not deserve this rotten mob commanded by half a dozen cowards who hide behind stars on the shirt and come to bring robbery, violence, rape and death. These rats must be exterminated. (...) There must be blood to prove our bravery. If you, dear citizen of São Gabriel, have a private plane, spray 100 liters of gasoline on the rats' camping. There will probably be a lit candle to finish the job and kill all of them. (...) If you, dear citizen of São Gabriel, have a gun, shoot the camping from your car from the higher distance possible, the bullet can find the target even from a distance of 1.200 mt".
MST legal advisory asked Public Ministry and Legislative Assembly do Rio Grande do Sul to investigate the origin and punish the authors of the leaflets.

Evictions from Incra Settlements

Fr. Xavier Plassat, member of CPT Araguaia-Tocantins, denounces the violence against local workers like in the settlement PA Remansão, created in September 2001 in the city of Nova Olinda. The land, before grabbed by farmers, had been occupied by families of the region. Together with the 104 families legally established in 2002, other 43 were there settled by Incra (Agrarian Reform Institute) in an area of the State that was contested by the farmer Wagner Luis Gratão and the ministerial officer, Luis Carneiro.
Because it was an area of federal jurisdiction, without competence to do so, the judge of Araguaína, nearest city to the settlement, issued an eviction injunction requested by the farmer. The eviction was carried on with violence by 20 policemen, 2 justice officers and 2 gunmen. The group entered the settlement, put down and burned the houses and the land recently prepared for plantation.
Accepting the requirement from Incra Office, in January 2003, the judge sent the lawsuit to the Federal Justice. Even though, on April 6, 5 gunmen invaded again the area threatening the families and urging them to enter the same truck that had brought 11 men to put down the place. These men were hired in Araguaína by the farmer. After a quick intervention of the Federal Police, 6 new people were arrested accused of hiring rural workers, slavery related crimes, threatening and illegal gun possession.

Under Threat

In the last months, there was a raise in threatenings from the ex-MP Arnaldo, leader of the gunmen of the region, to the families, syndicate leaders and CPT officer Edmundo Rodrigues Costa, who follows the settled groups. In May 2003, while chainsaw operators, hired by Luis Carneiro, tried to put down the structures of the settlement, 4 young rural workers from PA Remansão (Farm Ilha II), were arrested for putting fire on the chainsaws. They were released two days after.
On June 13, four strangers looked for Edmundo at CPT headquarters Araguaína-TO. One of the relatives of the farmer said that he "wouldn't let Edmundo live for long".