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English Report

In September 2004, an MST survey showed that only 5440 families from MST encampments had been settled on land since the beginning of the Lula government. Data from the Agrarian Reform Auditor indicates that from January to August of this year the number of land occupations increased 47% in relation to the same period last year, reaching a total of 271.


Violence in the Countryside and Land Reform

Maria Luisa Mendonça and Roberto Rainha

 This article analyzes violence in the countryside and land reform during 2003 and part of 2004. In 2003, the inauguration of the Lula government created great expectations. According to the Pastoral Commission on Land (CPT), “The year 2003 began with the euphoria of hope that can overcome fear. The rural workers believed that the time had come for a profound change, that Land Reform would finally happen.”

 At that time, the CPT attributed a large number of mobilizations to this expectation. In 2003, the occupations and encampments reached a total of 676, involving 124,634 families or around 623,170 people. The number of people who participated in the demonstrations was estimated at 481,023. The total number of conflicts reached a never-before-seen level: 1690 conflicts, involving around 1,190,578 people.

 In 2003, the number of killings of rural workers grew 70% in relation to 2002, reaching a total of 73. The number of eviction notices -- 35,297 families involving around 176,485 people -- was also at a record high in 2003, an increase of 263% in relation to 2002. The number of imprisonments was also 140% higher than in 2002.

 In April 2003, the CPT diagnosis was that “the hopes deposited in the Lula government are being transformed into doubts, or even deception. No one is ignorant of the immense difficulties, barriers, and impediments placed by the elite classes on this government. Although the federal government adopted a new posture in relation to the rural movements, not treating them as criminal movements outside the law, as happened in recent years, it also did not carry out a true land reform.” According to the CPT, the number of families settled on land during 2003 and 2004 was “laughable”.

 In September 2004, an MST survey showed that only 5,440 families from MST encampments had been settled on land since the beginning of the Lula government. The government claims to have settled 70,100 families since January 2003 but these numbers are contested by the social movements. According to the MST, 14,000 families were settled in 2003 and only 7,000 families in the first three months of 2004. The majority of these settlements did not benefit families in encampments, because they were concentrating on regularizing their ownership status.

 Even the data from the National Institute of Colonization and Land Reform (INCRA) indicates that perhaps the government did not succeed in fulfilling its goal of settling 115,000 families in 2004. In August, the government stated that it had settled 33,300 families, only 29% of the goal. According to official data, in 2003, the government settled only 36,800 of the announced goal of 60,000 families.

 On the other hand, data from the Agrarian Reform Auditor indicates that from January to August of this year the number of land occupations increased 47% in relation to the same period last year, reaching a high of 271.

Killings in 2004

 Data from the CPT from January to August of 2004 indicates that 20 rural workers were killed, nine of them in Pará, three in Pernambuco, two in Maranhão, two in Paraná, two in Piauí, one in Mato Grosso and one in Paraíba. 

2004 Killings




Name of the conflict

Name of the Victim










José Borges da Silva, 67


Rural worker

Killed with 67 knife wounds. Had his genitals cut off. The rancher Matias would let his cattle onto the workers’ planted area. During one of these incidents, José Borges reacted, tying up one of the rancher’s young bulls. The rancher swore vengeance.





Vila Boa Esperança/PA Mangueira

Evaldo, 20



Killed in an ambush. The main suspect  is João Pinto, an ally of the rancher  Francisco Gomes da Silva. It is said that this rancher has an interest in acquiring part of the area of PA Mangueira, which has created conflicts in the settlement. The victim had ties to the MST.




do Oeste

Ass. Marzagão

Joaquim Rosa da Cruz,39



The land belongs to the Union but in July 2003, Clorisvaldo Rodrigues returned possession to the rancher José Roberto Cerri. Since then, death threats in the settlement are constant and the conflict is imminent.



N. Reparti-


Gleba Capivara



Landless worker

Eudes was working in the Pontal Madeiras Sawmill, in Maracajá. The owner, Sr. Francisco, known as “brother”, had Eudes killed for not paying for his service in the lumber yard. Eudes was camped in the  Gleba Capivara, at Km 220 of the  Transamazônica highway.



N. Reparti-


Gleba Capivara



Landless worker

Eudes and Gil  were both working in the same Sawmill (Serraria Pontal Madeiras), in Maracajá. Gil was killed for the same reason as Eudes.




Faz. Santa Eliza

Ezequiel de Morais Nascimento



Ezequiel was president of the Workers Association of the Fazenda Stª Eliza. The fazenda has been occupied for 8 years by 30 families of small farmers. For some time, large landowners infiltrated the area with the goal of seizing the land (with false papers) Among these, Sra. Terezinha Boeck. At various times early in 2003, Ezequiel made accusations of violence against the workers that had been ordered by these land-grabbers and with the support of the police. For this reason he received death threats.




do Pará

Ligado a vários conflitos

Ribamar Francisco dos Santos


President of Syndicate

The president of the Rural Workers Syndicate of Rondon (PA), Ribamar Francisco, had his name on a list of those “marked for death” and had been receiving threats for weeks. Nothing was done by the police about his complaints. For this reason, CONTAG proposes that crimes committed in the struggle for land be investigated by the Federal Police and tried by the Federal Courts. “The judiciary cannot continue as an extension of the large landowners”, stated Manoel dos Santos, president of CONTAG.




Assentamento Arapari I

José Ribamar Ribeiro, 45



According to the CPT agents in  Tucuruí-PA, this was a conflict over land, but it was not possible to obtain more information.




Ligado a vários conflitos

Epitácio Gomes da Silva


Leader of  MTRI

There are two versions of the crime. The civil police state that the cause of the killing was a robbery, but the representatives of the rural workers’  movements in the region believe that it was a death ordered by the ranchers and lumbermen. At the end of 2003, Epitácio along with representatives of other municipalities founded the Movement of Independent Rural Workers (MTRI). The MTRI was mobilizing workers, organizing to begin to occupy land in the region, which displeased many landowners, lumbermen and land-grabbers. 



N. Reparti-


Assentamento Redenção

José Antonio P. de Souza, 45



This was a case of a conflict in the area between P. A Redenção and Gleba Capivara. No other information is known.



N. Reparti-


Vicinal 4 Paracanã



Rural worker

The rancher Alexandre ordered Gaspar killed for two reasons: for not paying a fee  for clearing the land, (R$2500.00) and in order to take over Gaspar’s lot, which was next to his ranch. Gaspar was living alone, he did not have a family.





Gleba Curuá

Adilson Prestes,26


Pastoral assistant

For two years, Adilson was threatened with death because he denounced the land-grabbing and illegal exploitation of mahogany.




do Paraná

Faz. Sta. Filomena

Elias Gonçalves de Moura,20


Landless worker

Killed with a shot in the neck in a confrontation between the MST and the security guards on the Sta. Filomena ranch, in Planaltina, during the occupation of that area. The rancher Francisco Carvalho Ramos awaits the judge’s ruling and says that he has already submitted a request to retake possession of the land. 




Faz. Olho D'Água

Antônio Carlos da Silva,64


Land owner

Antônio Carlos was supporting the struggle of the MST workers for the expropriation of the Olho D'Água ranch. He was killed by two body guards when he was returning to the ranch. The MST lawyer, Dr. Rogério Machado accused a group of gunmen (belong to a private militia) of being active in the region of  Mari and Sapé.




Faz. Sta. Filomena

Elias Gonçalves Moura, 20


Landless worker

Elias was killed by gunmen who opened fire on 400 families, who were camped near Sta. Filomena ranch. Various people were wounded. The landless occupied the ranch after the conflict.





Usina Catende

Eraldo José

da Silva



Eraldo José da Silva was the president of the Association of Residents of  Tabaiaré, of the Catende Plant. In 2003, he had coordinated an occupation of the plant. Soon afterwards, he began to receive death threats and suffered an assassination attempt when his car was hit with a number of gunshots. The MST accuses the plant administrator who had already threatened Eraldo.




Assentamento Herbert de Souza

José Rosendo da Silva



José Rosendo, leader of the Herbert de Souza Settlement, was killed with three shots in the back. He had been having misunderstandings with lumbermen of the region who were cutting down trees in the settlement reserve area. The settlement is coordinated by the Organization of Struggle in the Countryside.




Engenho Retalhos

Rivaldo José

da Silva, 24


Landless worker

Rivaldo was killed in an ambush near where he lived on the Retalhos mill, that is in being expropriated. The owner of the mill is in conflict with the 11 families camped in the area.





Fazenda Papagaio

Maria Betânia,34


Land owner

Maria Betânia and Manoel de Jesus were killed by two unidentified gunmen . They were the leaders of 40 families who struggled for the expropriation of the  Papagaio Ranch. Currently reacting against the sale of the property to a group of southern businessmen, who are interested in planting soybeans for export.





Fazenda Papagaio

Manoel de Jesus, 33


Land owner

See Maria Betânia, above.









  Source: Documentation Sector of the CPT National Secretariat 

  Source: CPT.

Note:   There was a killing in SC on 03/26/04 and in  AC on  02/24/04, both are being investigated by CPT agents.

 On September 19, Josenildo Severino da Silva was killed, a member of the MST Health Sector in Pernambuco. He was killed with 15 stab wounds by two unknown men.

The Myth of Agribusiness

 Another concern of the social movements is the strengthening of agribusiness, which makes carrying out land reform more difficult and stimulates violence against the workers.

 Support for big producers, who make monoculture a priority for export, has been a mark of the Lula government. This policy creates a distorted image as if agribusiness created jobs and income for the population. In reality, this sector benefits only a small number of producers and multinational businesses. According to an MST study, properties over a thousand hectares employ only 600,000 salaried workers and possess only 5% of the national fleet of tractors. The small properties employ 13,000,000 of family farmers and more than one million salaried workers, and use 52% of Brazil’s entire fleet of tractors.

 Agribusiness is responsible for serious social and environmental problems and is regularly accused of using slave labor. Currently the production of soy and cattle ranching are the main ones responsible for the destruction of the forests in the Cerrado as well as in Amazônia. According to the International Conservation Organization, the Cerrado has an annual rate of deforestation of 1.5%, which represents 7,300 hectares per day. Of the 204,000,000 original hectares, 57% were already completely destroyed. This process may result in the total destruction by 2030. In Amazônia, the cattle-ranching sector was responsible for 80% of the 23,700 kilometers deforested in 2003.

“Red April”

 The year 2004 was marked by the MST’s large mobilization called “Red April”.

 In a message published during that period, the MST demands that their right to mobilize be recognized and it cites data to justify their actions:

 1. Around 26,000 large landowners, who represent less than 1% of the 5 million landowners, are the owners of 46% of all the land in Brazil. For this reason, Brazil is one of the countries with the greatest concentration of land ownership.

 2. The Brazilian Constitution states that properties that do not fulfill a social function relative to productivity, with respect to the environment and to workers’ rights must be expropriated by the government and distributed to the workers. According to the National Plan for Land Reform developed by the Ministry of Agrarian Development, there are 55,000 rural properties classified as large unproductive properties, containing 120 million hectares which should by law be expropriated.

 3. There are around 4.6 million landless families in Brazil. A recent study by the Getulio Vargas Foundation shows that 33% of the Brazilian population (56 million people) lives in misery.

 4. The government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1994-2002) claimed that it had settled 620,000 families in eight years. However, a joint study carried out by the University of São Paulo and the Ministry of Agrarian Development verified that only 358,000 families were settled on land during this period.  

 5. During the FHC government, a large TV campaign was broadcast to encourage the landless to register by mail so that they would not have to organize with the MST and occupy lands. 880,000 were registered but until now, none of them has been settled on land.

 6. During the first year of the Lula government, the MST contributed to the development of the National Plan for Land Reform. The team led by Professor Plínio de Arruda Sampaio proved that it would be possible to settle one million families in four years. The MST accepted the government’s proposal to lower the goal to 400,000 families for the 2004-2006 period. This would mean an average of 115,000 families per year.  

 7. There are currently around 200,000 families camped alongside highways throughout the country. Some of them are organized by the MST and others by unions of rural workers and other social movements that are multiplying and organizing themselves in the struggle for land reform.

 8. Half a million people have been settled in the last 20 years. In 2003, only 64,000 rural families had access to credit. The standards of technical assistance determine that the ideal is to have a technician for every 100 families. This would require the hiring of 5,000 technicians. Up to now, funds have been allocated to hire only 300. INCRA had 12,000 civil servants in the ‘70s and today has only 5,000.

 9. A total of 1,671 rural workers have been killed in conflicts over land throughout the 20 years of redemocratization. In fewer than 10 cases has there been a conviction and imprisonment for the killers.

 10. The MST believes that land reform must be accompanied by support for farm industries, education, and a new farm technology that respects the environment. This is the quickest and cheapest way for the government to create jobs and ensure the rights of the rural workers.

The UN Special Rapporteur

 In June 2004, the visit from the Special Rapporteur from the UN Human Rights Commission for Dignity in Housing, Miloon Kothari, lent legitimacy to the MST mobilizations. During a meeting with the social movements in São Paulo, he stated that the occupations are legitimate and  appropriate in the struggle for human rights. He emphasized also that the repression and criminalization of the social movements would be highlighted in the report that he is developing about the right to housing in the rural areas and the cities of Brazil.

  This declaration was important given that conservative sectors like to characterize the mobilizations of the MST as violent acts. Marina Santos, a member of the National Directorate of the MST gave another reaction when she spoke to the newspaper O Globo on May 17, 2004:

 ”We never ‘invade’ lands. ‘Invade’ connotes a violent act,   a robbery, taking what is not ours. The use of this expression contains a preconception, a judgment of the worth of our actions. We do not organize occupations at random. We occupy latifúndios that do not fulfill their social function in accord with the Constitution, but also respecting environmental and workers’ laws  (arts. 184 a 186). This was the case, for example, on the Veracel eucalyptus ranches in Bahia and the Klabin ranches in Santa Catarina. Our basic orientation is to repudiate violent acts. We know that the greatest victim of violent acts is the poor population, of which we are part”.

Profile of Violence in the Countryside

  Besides the killing of rural workers, violence in the countryside is characterized by ongoing arbitrary arrests, evictions, and threats to the social organizations that struggle for land. One of the main reasons why this does not change is impunity. In the following section, we describe cases that are emblematic of this situation in some regions of the country. 


May 2004 – Gunman Acquitted

 Nineteen years after the killing of Sister Adelaide and attempted killing of Arnaldo Ferreira, a member of the Syndicate of Rural Workers of Eldorado, the gunman José de Ribamar R. Lopes was brought to trial. At the time, the ranchers José Batista Veloso, José Eduardo de Abreu Vieira and Aloysio Ribeiro Vieira were accused of being the ones who had ordered the crime and José de Ribamar as the one who had carried it out.

 The intention of the gunman was to kill Arnaldo. The shot hit Arnaldo in the back, went through his body and wounded Sister Adelaide, who later died. The syndicate member was killed seven years later.

 Despite proving through testimony that the accused left the scene of the crime with a gun in his hand, the jury acquitted the defendant by a vote of five to two. The plaintiff’s lawyers tried to appeal the decision because they discovered that three jury members used their cell phones during the trial but the judge denied this appeal.

(Report by the attorney Adelar Cupsinski, from the MST-PA)

September 2004

Armed group carries out a violent eviction in Abel Figueiredo, in southeast Pará

 A group of 20 gunmen, carrying large-caliber weapons (38 revolvers, guns, 12 and 20 caliber rifles, pistols) expelled around 90 families who had been camped on the edge of the Fazenda Gaúcha, located 25 kilometers from the township of  Abel Figueiredo.

 The armed group arrived at the camp around 8:00 in the morning, wearing Army camouflage. According to the workers, the action was coordinated by Jerônimo, the owner of the ranch. Men, women, and children were threatened with weapons pointed at their heads, while their belongings were placed on trucks belonging to the ranch. The action did not end until 5:00 a.m. the next day. There was no preliminary ruling on reintegration of ownership against the people who had been in the encampment. The gunmen claimed to be carrying out the orders of the rancher Lucas Batisteli, and were acting with the support f the military and civilian police.

(Report of the Agricultural Workers Federation of the State of Pará – FETAGRI and of the CPT of the Diocese of Marabá).    

September 2004

Serial evictions

 Forty preliminary rulings of re-integration of ownership were issued in an area that is considered a power-keg of land reform. Shock troops and the cavalry were mobilized to carry out the evictions, along with the Army and the Federal Police.

 The operation took place in nine municipalities in the south and southeast of Pará. There are 27 areas occupied by 3939 families. There are a total of 12,000 families living in occupied areas in the region. Among these areas, two are settlement projects already certified by INCRA. The damage of the evictions is incalculable. Just in the production of rice and corn, it is estimated that 4592 farm plots have been lost.

 This is a question of the most sweeping operation for re-integration of ownership in the history of Pará. In 2001, the biggest registration up to now, the re-integration of 15 areas was scheduled. In that operation, seven leaders of the social movements were killed, 121 rural workers detained, and three MST leaders thrown in jail.  

(Report of the CPT and Federation of the Agricultural Workers in Pará).


January 2004 – Jailing of Nine Rural Workers

 On January 16, a prison sentence was decreed for nine landless workers, including Roberto Araújo, of the MST National Coordination and a councilman for the Workers Party in Poço Redondo.

 In September of last year, the MST organized a series of peaceful demonstrations in the region for the immediate liberation of water, food, and credit. In that period, the lack of assistance for the workers caused the loss of 100% of the harvest. Since then, the policy of repression of the landless has been growing.


June 2004 – Violent Eviction

 On June 8 2004, there was a violent eviction in the Municipality of Poço Branco. The police beat up children, young people, and women, had their belongs removed, destroyed shacks, and plantings. The operation was led by Major Fontes and the ranch owner, Gustavo de Queirós. Two workers were imprisoned.

(Report of Sérgio S. Pereira, MST Secretariat in Rio Grande do Norte).


February 2004 – Eviction and Jailing of Workers

  Military and civilian police, accompanied by 12 armed security guards without an judicial order, evicted 60 families who had been camped on the Rancharia Ranch. The police knocked down the shacks and took eight workers prisoner:


·            José Alexandre da Silva

·            Cícero Manoel da Silva

·            Heleno Manoel da Silva

·            Josimar Ferreira da Silva

·            João de Deus Rodrigues

·            José Pereira da Silva

·            Roquimar Alexandre de Melo

·            Jadiael José da Silva



May 2004


Landless workers are jailed

 Rural workers Antônio José Lourenço, Cícero José da Silva and João Manoel da Silva were jailed in the city of Bonito. The judge decreed prison owing to their supposed participation in the occupation of the Uberaba ranch.

 The Uberaba ranch was reoccupied by workers in March, because the owner did not fulfill an agreement that would permit the inspection of the property by INCRA. Besides this, it began to persecute the workers and hired gunmen to threaten them. 

September 2004

Rancher’s son arms an ambush to kill the landless

  MST coordinator João Rufino was accosted on September 20 in the city of Bonito, Mata Sul de Pernambuco, by four armed men in a black car who made various threats. On noticing that some people were approaching, they withdrew. Following that, João Rufino returned to his house when he was told that the same men had been there. He communicated this fact to the MST leadership, who immediately withdrew him from the region. On seeing that his return would be delayed, the gunmen left the area.

 One of the men was identified as the son of a local rancher who had been assaulting and threatening the families camped near the Uberaba ranch, which is guarded round-the-clock by strongly-armed gunmen. On various occasions, the gunmen surrounded the camp in search of the MST leaders.


September 2004 

Criminalization of the Movements that Struggle for Land Reform in the Sertão of Bahia

 Monte Santo, in the sertão of Bahia, was where Antônio Conselheiro and his followers began the building of Canudos – a symbol of the struggle for land in the Northeast. Even today, the land remains concentrated in the hands of a small oligarchy.

 This year, the persecution was directed against some of the workers’ leaders, such as Zé Branco, a 57 year old settler and Nelson de Jesus Lopes, an agronomist, director of the Family Farm School of the Sertão and a Workers Party candidate for councilman.

Together with other workers, they are accused of participating in two land occupations. A provisional arrest decree was issued against them, under the allegation of guaranteeing public security. However in the hearing, there was no evidence about the alleged occupations and no evidence that these people were in the area.

 This happened when INCRA determined the inspection of the ranches belonging to Cláudio Ferreira Pereira and Clóvis Lopes Cedraz.

 (Report from Isac Tolentino, AATR – Association of Attorneys of the Rural Workers of  Bahia).



September 2004 – Violent Eviction

 On September 9, 200 landless families were evicted by the military police of São Paulo, of the São Luiz Ranch, in the municipality of Cajamar. The action began around 5:00 a.m., with the camp besieged by the shock troops of the Military Police. The families disassembled the shacks to the extent possible and were expelled from the area, leaving behind their vegetable gardens, shacks, and all the improvements that they had made in the area, which before had been totally abandoned. After the families left, a tractor destroyed their gardens.

 The objective of these workers is to continue to see the expropriation of the ranch, which has 955.9 hectares, of which 534 are suitable for farming. Today, this ranch has only large plantations of eucalyptus. A part of these lands is within the Environmental Protection Area (APA) of the Serra do Japi. The APAs are submitted to planning and environmental management, with the objective of guaranteeing the preservation of wildlife, the protection of natural resources and the improvement of the quality of life of the local populace. However, the monoculture of eucalyptus does not allow the preservation of the area.


May 2004 – Workers Jailed

  Four workers were jailed, accused of attempted robbery of 100 sacks of rice. The product was harvested in the Fazenda São Paulo, also know as  Pau-a-Pique, which was occupied on March 31. Those imprisoned were:  43 year old Valterci Ferreira de Lima, 46 year old Antônio Dias Ferreira, 43 year old Dari Alves de Brito, and 26 year old Mariana Duque Carvalho Dias, one of the MST state coordinators. 

 (Report from attorney Junior Fideles).

September 2004

Ruralists Organize Armed Militias 

 According to the newspaper Jornal Diário da Manhã (09/10/2004), “Armed vigilance on the rural properties of  Goiás against land invasions is being planned by the National Association of Rural Producers (ANPRU). This is a pilot project that aims at offering teams that are trained in patrimonial defense to the ranchers. The municipality of  Campestre de Goiás, 49 kilometers from Goiânia, will be the first to receive this security strategy. (…) The objective of the ANPRU is to offer an armed vigilante on each property, monitoring by autos, motorcycles, and even helicopters. (…) The president of the association states only that the operation should reach roughly one thousand ranchers and the estimated cost is R$300,000. According to Narciso da Rocha Clara, ANPRU currently represents 157,000 rural owners throughout the country and has a goal to expand this project to other municipalities in Goiás such as Palmeiras and Jataí, and also to other states such as Paraná, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul”.

 These reports are examples of the continued repression suffered by the movements struggling for land reform and against the power of the rural oligarchies and concentration of land ownership in Brazil.