Groups of hired gunmen (called "private security firms")
are currently the most significant threat to peace in the countryside.
By protecting large land holdings in Paraná, these militiamen
weaken constitutional authority and create a climate of fear and
pendulum of violence struggling for land in Paraná
encampments inhabited by about 15,000 families: the numbers of the
struggle for land this year in Paraná illustrate the crisis
in the State, and serve as an example of what is happening everywhere
in Brazil. The number of candidates for settlement grew more than
100% in Paraná after eight years of repression under the
government of Jaime Lerner, who was responsible for a wave of violence
that left 16 people murdered, 31 victims violently attacked, 47
death threats, 7 victims of torture, 324 wounded, and 488 arrested
in 134 violent evicitions that spread terror throughout Paraná.
Lerner was the most egregious example of the anti-agrarian reform
pact between the government and the large estate owners.
a man condemned internationally for severe human rights violations,
has thwarted all attempts to bring about an agrarian reform. He
upheld a policy of
strong police repression against landless workers. Ideologically
trained to fight the landless, the Paraná Military Police
have worked to eliminate progressive social movements through violence.
2003, with the change of government in Paraná, there was
a change in the strategy for dealing with agrarian reform. The new
governor, Robert Requião, repeatedly stated his intent to
act responsibly regarding agrarian reform. After the election of
president Lula, we are seeing a broad growth in workers' hopes for
agrarian reform. The demand for land that grew over so many years
of repression and violence led to a sharp increase in the number
of families ready and willing to struggle for land.
organizing and political strength of agricultural workers grew when
the Landless Movement (MST) allied itself with the Via Campesina,
which includes the Movement of People Displaced by Dams (Movimento
dos Atingidos por Barragens), the Small Farmers' Movement (Movimento
dos Pequenos Agricultores) and the Pastoral Land Commission (Comissão
Pastoral das Terra). The MST´s demands have gathered momentum,
as we saw in the protests against Monsanto's GMO farm in the city
of Ponta Grossa. Other joint actions were organized against toll
taxes imposed by Lerner when the roads in Paraná were privatized
as part of his neoliberal policies.
the MST, other groups and social movements have begun to organize
in Paraná. Confirming an increasing demand for land in the
state, there are now 20 encampments independent of the MST that
were organized by groups such as Land Movement Brazil (Movimento
Terra Brazil), the Rural Worker's Movement (Movimento de Trabalhadores
Rurais, or MTR), Grupo Xambrê and Grupo Zumbi dos Palmares.
struggle for land was followed by a strong reaction from the big
farmers. The workers are constant targets of violence by the police
and the local militias hired by big land owners.
March, a militia group called PCR (Primeiro Comando Rural) was created.
This organization, led by Humberto de Sá, a big farmer, is
an agency for mercenaries and gunmen willing to act against agricultural
workers in the center of the state. Inspired by the PCC (Capital's
First Command), a gang that is trying to gain control of prisons
in São Paulo and Paraná, the big farmers of the PCR
manipulate the press to justify the use of force against landless
people. They announced recently that they would "distribute
high-caliber weapons to men guarding at least 50 farms in the center-west
of the state, to prevent the occupation of land."
that moment on, that region became the stage of a series of threats
and attacks on landless people. This violence reached its height
during the occupation of Fazenda Três Marias by about 350
families. The farmers associated with PCR and the National Syndicate
of Rural Producers (SINAPRO) threatened to evict them and surrounded
the area for five days, but they were interrupted by the Comissão
Especial de Mediação das Questões da Terra
do Estado (Special Commission for Negotiation of Land Problems).
March, another conservative group, the UDR, announced the opening
of 15 offices in Paraná, and repeated their plan to prevent
further land occupations. They demanded that the government "act
strongly against the MST to prevent new occupations".
intention of the Requião government to prevent the use of
force and to pledge to work for Agrarian Reform was not enough to
prevent recent violence against agricultural workers. In this period
there have been two murders, four attempted murders, four people
wounded and five imprisoned, including some leaders of the MST who
were under "preventive custody".
September 2 an ambush left two workers dead and three wounded in
Foz do Jordão, a region that is building a tradition of hired
gunmen. The agricultural workers in this region are threatened by
armed militia groups.
Often using smuggled weapons, these groups of hired gunmen (now
called "private security firms") are currently the most
significant threat to peace in the countryside. By protecting large
land holdings in Paraná they weaken constitutional authority
and create a climate of fear and terror in the State.
the Lerner government, the large farmers strengthened their criminal
organizations, supported by the bureaucracy of the Secretary of
Public Security and the Military Políce. The new government
must confront this reality. We hope for decisive actions to restrain
the private militias.
Judiciary continues to demonstrate its servility to the interests
of large estate holders. It usually authorizes evictions of landless
workers without consulting organizations like INCRA (the Agrarian
Reform Institute) or even the Secretary of Security. This blatant
disregard demonstrates the conservative face of the Judiciary, which
constantly closes its eyes to the suffering of poor people. At the
same time, this system has guaranteed impunity in most cases of
violence against landless people. Of the 1,282 cases of workers
murdered in Brazil since 1985, only 121 have been taken before a
judge, and only 14 have been brought to trial. Of those 14, only
7 perpetrators have been sentenced).
year, the deaths of Paulo Sérgio Brasil and Anarolino Vial
have increased the number of murders of landless workers in Paraná.
Since 1980, this number reached 46. This sad accounting reveals
the power of big farmers, as well as the lack of political will
from the government to carry out agrarian reform.
even in the face of so much difficulty, the landless resist. They
occupy land in order to guarantee their survival. We have great
hope that in 2004 the promised governmental measures will make Agrarian
Reform a reality.
*Jelson Oliveira is the Executive Secretary of the Pastoral Land
Comission of Paraná and a member of the Advisory Board of
the Social Network for Justice and Human Rights.
Data from the Pastoral Land Commission as of 12/2002.