Rural Violence in Brazil: who is responsible

Julio Pino jpino at
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.
Julio Cesar

               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
such as
          Mr. Ribeiro de Souza have been killed in Brazil in the last 10
years. Only
          a handful of the murderers have been tried, virtually all of them
          hired triggermen.

          The conviction and sentencing of the powerful Mr. Amorim is one of
          several recent setbacks for Brazil's ranchers, whose drive for
land is
          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
of it
          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
huge risks.
          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,
who have
          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
harder for
          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
of the
          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
allowed a
          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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