Rural Violence in Brazil: who is responsible
jpino at SPAMkent.edu
Wed Jun 14 13:08:38 MDT 2000
Brazil's Rural Violence
New York Times
June 14, 2000
What this editorial cleverly leaves out , of course, is who is ULTIMATELY
responsible for the killings of landless workers in Brazil: the US
govrnment, which overthrew president Joao Goulart in 1964 after his mild
attempts at land reform in 1964, and the multinational corporations,
abetted by the IMF/World Bank, who despoil arable land in Brazil. Any way
you figure, the USA pulls the trigger.
This month in the Brazilian state of
Pará, the wealthy and influential
rancher Jerônimo Alves Amorim received a
19-year prison term for ordering the murder
of a rural union leader, Expedito Ribeiro de
Souza, nine years ago. More than 1,000 activists for the landless
Mr. Ribeiro de Souza have been killed in Brazil in the last 10
a handful of the murderers have been tried, virtually all of them
The conviction and sentencing of the powerful Mr. Amorim is one of
several recent setbacks for Brazil's ranchers, whose drive for
furthering the destruction of the Amazon and condemning peasants to
lives of destitution.
Brazil has one of the world's most unequal patterns of land
One percent of landowners own half the agricultural land -- much
idle, bought for speculation.
Brazilian law allows land to be expropriated if it does not
fulfill its "social
function." Tens of thousands of peasants have won title after
idle land, but millions remain landless, and their leaders run
Other victims are rubber tappers who live in the forests claimed and
burned by ranchers and farmers.
The ranchers have great political power in rural Brazil and in
They have little to fear from the justice system or the police,
themselves massacred the landless.
In 1996, 19 peasants were killed and dozens injured when they
with military police in Pará State. Last year three police
were acquitted of the massacre after a trial marred by
evidence-tampering and accusations of jury bribery.
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso criticized the verdict. His
government supports some land reform, but the ranchers' lobby has
able to block progress. After the landless movement occupied
government ministries recently, Mr. Cardoso cracked down,
a federal police unit to deal with the movement and making it
those who occupy land to win title to it.
But Brazil's state and federal authorities also feel pressure
from sectors of
the Catholic Church, environmentalists and the growing movement
landless, who can mobilize a network of supporters abroad. On
controversial issues, these voices can be persuasive.
Pará has now ordered a new trial for the police accused of the 1996
Ranchers had sought a change in forestry laws that could have
25 percent increase in the clearing of Amazon forests. Last month in
Congress, the legislation was unexpectedly defeated.
Mr. Amorim's sentence is perhaps the most significant victory in the
The challenge for Brazil, however, is to do justice and make fair
decisions even in the cases that never make headlines.
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