Although for a year there has been no land occupations in that region,
from 2002 to September 2003, Judge Atis issued 12 prison sentences
against 46 MST activists. All his decisions were declared illegal
by higher courts. The Court of Justice of Sao Paulo granted freedom
to 20 farmers, the Criminal Appeal Court granted freedom to four
landless workers and the Superior Court of Justice annulled the
prison sentence of 22 MST members.
the soil of the land to the floor
of the jail cell
"É verdade que depois de derrubadas as cercas do latifúndio,
outras se levantarão: as cercas do judiciário, as
cercas da polícia (ou das milícias privadas), as cercas
dos meios de comunicação de massa... Mas é
verdade também que a cada vez que caem cercas a sociedade
é obrigada a olhar-se e discutir o tamanho das desigualdades,
o tamanho da opulência e da miséria, o tamanho da fartura
e da fome."
("It's true that after the fences of the latifúndio
have been knocked down, others will be raised: the fences of the
courts, the fences of the police or of private militias, the fences
of the mass media
But it is true also that each time that fences
fall, society is required to look and discuss the size of the inequality,
the size of wealth and of misery, the size of abundance and of hunger.")
(Pedro Tierra, Somos a perigosa memória das lutas, 1995)
Roberto Rainha and Patrick Mariano Gomes*
It is undeniable that agrarian reform is an efficient, urgent, and
essential method of guaranteeing the families of landless farmers
much more than a simple return to the fields, but above all, to
employment, dignity, and nourishment. All studies on the topic agree
that this is the solution that will increase employment and production,
generate wealth, put a brake on migration from the rural areas to
the cities, and ultimately restore the condition of citizen, which
for so long did not apply to the rural worker.
is also undeniable that a campaign is being organized by the elite
who want to hinder the implementation of reform on the huge Brazilian
the struggle for land, the workers use the strength of organization
and pressure, and are represented by the social movements, a legitimate
remedy and fundamental in all agrarian reforms up to now. Already
in the struggle to maintain their monopoly of the land, the strength
of the landowners - who take advantage of the land to exert its
domain and to apply its power of control-is being exerted by regional
influences. This strength of "the colonel" covers armed
militias, deals out violence, and directly influences the decisions
of the constituted local powers, using the State to protect its
private interests. They seek at all costs to create a climate of
social instability, influencing public opinion in order that the
public accepts and demands that punitive and coercive methods be
adopted against the workers. They threaten, assassinate, make use
of judges and arbitrary arrests against the representatives of the
this way a campaign is carried out that aims to criminalize grassroots
movements. In this context, the Landless Workers Movement (MST)
is the main target.
number of landless workers marked for death, or who are in prison,
and the number of those already killed goes up on a daily basis.
Up to November 2003, we have had more than 42 rural workers sent
to prison and 61 assassinated throughout the country. However, there
is no news about those who ordered the executions much less those
who carried them out.
São Paulo: Pontal do Paranapanema
we want to highlight the state of São Paulo, specifically
the disputed region of Pontal do Paranapanema, where the greatest
human rights violations have occurred against rural workers in that
despite the intention to recount the violations of human rights
that occurred in 2003, there is no way to do it without an historic
account of the same region and the work of the MST in it-a victim
of many years of numerous violent and illegal onslaughts carried
out by the landowners as well as by the local judiciary.
in the extreme Western part of the state and the second-most underdeveloped
region, this area, even on a low scale, was a reference point in
the production of coffee and cotton, plants that divided the landscape
with an immense piece of the Atlantic forest. In time, the flora
and fauna started to lose space to cattle ranchers and timber cutters.
Cattle raising became extensive and the concentration of land for
speculation came to prevail.
small farmers, not being able to compete with the large owners,
either accepted their lot as employees or moved to urban areas.
With the majority of workers not adapting to cattle raising, they
went to seek other ways of life in the city.
another alternative was possible. Not a miracle, but something concrete.
Nothing that would interest the small minority of wealthy but something
for the majority, the poor, the landless.
1990, the MST started to organize landless workers in the region.
The first land occupation, with roughly 700 people, was on the Nova
do Pontal ranch, in the municipality of Rosana. The idea took hold
throughout the region. Today there are 94 rural settlements with
6,066 families in the region.
In the past 13 years, dozens of pieces of land have been won, at
the cost of uncounted physical injuries and bitter days in prison.
This was part of a campaign to criminalize the MST. On the other
hand, the MST was able to produce respected criminal jurisprudence
favorable to landless workers. In a habeas corpus for five MST members,
the Minister of the State Justice Tribunal, Luiz Vicente Cernichiaro,
stated that the MST "is not a movement to take other people's
lands, but a movement based on pressure - that is to say -- an expression
of the right of citizens to implement agrarian reform."
Teodoro Sampaio: history repeats itself
and biased imprisonment of the past, annulled, rejected, and repudiated
by higher courts, are repeated today in the district of Teodoro
Sampaio by Judge Átis de Araújo Oliveira.
for over a year there has been no land occupations in that region,
from 2002 until September 2003 Judge Atis de Araújo Oliveira
issued 12 prison sentences against 46 MST activists. All his decisions
were overruled by the superior courts.
Court of Justice of São Paulo granted freedom to 20 farmers,
the Criminal Appeals Court granted freedom to four landless workers
and the Superior Court of Justice annulled the prison sentence of
22 MST members.
Minister Paulo Medina, of the 6th Session of the Superior Court
of Justice, granted freedom to Márcio Barreto and Valmir
Rodrigues Chaves, members of the MST in the Pontal, saying that
"they are rural workers, members of the MST, that struggle
and sacrifice for a better way of life, where social dignity can
only be restored when true, necessary, and indispensable agrarian
reform is carried out in our country." According to the Minister,
" while the outcome of their campaign is uncertain, justified
revolt will be found along with the growing dissatisfaction of the
least favored in the economic, social, and political contexts of
repression against the MST in the Pontal do Paranapanema is essentially
political, aimed at repressing workers who struggle against poor
distribution of land, the lack of productivity and the abandonment
of more than 90% of the total area of Pontal do Paranapanema, as
well as against the severe environmental degradation that the latifúndio
Rainha is a lawyer with the Social Network for Justice and Human
* Patrick Mariano Gomes is a lawyer with the Landless Workers Movement