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.
Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos,
Comissão Pastoral da Terra,
Centro de Direitos Humanos Evandro Lins e Silva e
Instituto Carioca de Criminologia
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
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
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.
Concentration and Non-Productive Latifundium
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
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.
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
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
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".
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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".
Eviction and Imprisonments
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
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
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.
in the Rural Zone
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
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.
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.
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
Rio Grande do Sul
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.
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.
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
"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
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
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.
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".