Brazil landlord militias target peasant actions, land reform

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Jul 18 03:05:08 MDT 2003




From: "sf_adam.rm" <sf_adam at rocketmail.com>

Subject: [Arg_Solid] Brazil:  The rise of the landowners militias

Brazil's ranchers arming militias to protect land

BY PATRICE M. JONES
Chicago Tribune

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - (KRT) - Twice in the last two years,
Humberto Sa said, landless rural workers invaded his sprawling
cattle and soybean farm in southern Brazil and tried to push him off
his property.

After weeks of talking, Sa persuaded them to leave. But if the
invaders come again, he said, armed men will protect his ranch.

Sa, a 68-year-old farmer and doctor whose family has owned a 1,200-
acre spread in the state of Parana for three decades, is one of
several ranchers in Brazil forming armed militias to counter a
renewed wave of invasions by landless farm workers.

Militias, who usually include relatives and hired gunmen, have long
been a part of Brazil's decades-old land struggle. But the numbers
of armed men - some of whom have gone public, posing for the media
holding rifles and wearing hoods - are growing, worrying police.

"We have the right to defend our belongings," Sa said. "The
constitution of the country gives us that right."

A few miles down the road, Sa said, a growing group of landless
workers has set up camp.

"We can't find peace because gossip is spreading that tomorrow or
the next day, they will invade," he said.

Federal police say most militias are clandestine, making them hard
to count. But some have gone public. The First Rural Command in
Parana state sent a letter to the governor announcing its formation.

Sa said he and other ranchers have to act because they believe
Brazil's left-leaning president, former union leader Luiz Inacio
Lula da Silva, has taken the side of the landless movement, which
has been pushing for agrarian reform.

Ranchers complain that da Silva invited a backlash when he met
recently with national leaders of the landless movement and donned a
hat sporting the group's emblem.

"The militia movement is growing stronger because there is the
feeling that the government has strong links with the landless
movement and ranchers know they must protect themselves," said
Antonio Sergio Marquez, former president of the Democratic Ruralist
Union, a ranchers association.

"The government's wrongdoing is that they are not applying the law
(to protect the farmers)," said Antonio Ernesto de Salvo, president
of Brazil's National Agriculture Confederation, the nation's main
agricultural lobby.

Ranchers complain that police rarely protect landowners
when "productive" farms are invaded. The landless movement's stated
agenda is to take over "unproductive" or dormant land to push the
government to advance land reform. Brazilian law allows unproductive
farms to be seized for reform purposes.

In the first six months of this year, the number of invasions rose
62 percent over the same period last year, according to government
statistics. Through June 30, there were 114 invasions.

The government reported that 13 landless workers have been killed
this year. Landless movement leaders argue that the number of deaths
is much higher, saying more than 1,500 of their members have been
killed in the last four years.

The agricultural sector's complaints have been a delicate issue for
da Silva since he won a landslide victory in October with the
promise of improving the lives of the one-third of Brazilians who
live in poverty.

But da Silva also was elected on a moderate platform that courted
ranchers and landowners with a promise to control violence and
invasions.

Brazilian lawmakers who support farmers are calling for a
congressional investigation into the landless movement, saying its
activities are undermining the economy.

Leaders of the landless movement say the proposed investigation and
other moves are desperate acts by those who sense that a major push
for land reform is imminent.

Formally known as the Landless Rural Workers Movement, farm workers
and activists have championed a two-decade struggle aimed at undoing
a colonial legacy of land distribution that has given a small
minority control over most of the arable land.

According to statistics from 2000, about 3 percent of the population
owned more than 60 percent of the country's arable land.

"The big ranchers are getting armed because they know that land
reform is coming and there is no way to stop it," said Paulo Costa
Albuquerque, a Sao Paulo state coordinator for the landless movement.

Since taking office in January, da Silva's government has seized
nearly 600,000 acres of "unproductive" land to be distributed to
landless farmers.

But leaders in the landless movement argue the reforms are too slow
and are pushing for the settlement of 1 million landless families by
2006. The movement says 5 million families need land.

Since March, when the landless ended a moratorium on invasions,
there have been clashes throughout the country but confrontations
have stepped up dramatically in recent weeks in Parana and Sao Paulo
states.

In the fertile western tip of Sao Paulo state, about 20,000 landless
people camp alongside roads in an attempt to pressure the government.

Farther south in Parana, where Sa lives, one landless squatter was
shot.

Brazilian Justice Minister Marcio Thomaz Bastos issued a warning
hoping to defuse the potential for violence.

"Anyone - ranchers or members of the landless - who transgresses the
law will be severely punished," he said.

But Sa believes the landless camped only a few miles from his farm
are like a "rattlesnake waiting to bite."

"That is why the situation is so explosive," Sa said. "Whoever takes
the first shot could start something very violent."
While the US big business media are pouring out articles claiming "all
is well" in Brazil under Lula, polarization is intensifying in the
countryside and rightist forces are preparing to fight a widely
expected land reform. The landlord militias that are forming will
target not only peasant activists, but will be part of the landlords'
efforts to weaken and replace the Workers Party led government which
has continued to raise expectations in city and countryside.  Lula's
very friendly stance toward Cuba and Venezuela contributes to the
rising expectations.
Fred Feldman

Brazil's ranchers arming militias to protect land

BY PATRICE M. JONES
Chicago Tribune

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - (KRT) - Twice in the last two years,
Humberto Sa said, landless rural workers invaded his sprawling
cattle and soybean farm in southern Brazil and tried to push him off
his property.

After weeks of talking, Sa persuaded them to leave. But if the
invaders come again, he said, armed men will protect his ranch.

Sa, a 68-year-old farmer and doctor whose family has owned a 1,200-
acre spread in the state of Parana for three decades, is one of
several ranchers in Brazil forming armed militias to counter a
renewed wave of invasions by landless farm workers.

Militias, who usually include relatives and hired gunmen, have long
been a part of Brazil's decades-old land struggle. But the numbers
of armed men - some of whom have gone public, posing for the media
holding rifles and wearing hoods - are growing, worrying police.

"We have the right to defend our belongings," Sa said. "The
constitution of the country gives us that right."

A few miles down the road, Sa said, a growing group of landless
workers has set up camp.

"We can't find peace because gossip is spreading that tomorrow or
the next day, they will invade," he said.

Federal police say most militias are clandestine, making them hard
to count. But some have gone public. The First Rural Command in
Parana state sent a letter to the governor announcing its formation.

Sa said he and other ranchers have to act because they believe
Brazil's left-leaning president, former union leader Luiz Inacio
Lula da Silva, has taken the side of the landless movement, which
has been pushing for agrarian reform.

Ranchers complain that da Silva invited a backlash when he met
recently with national leaders of the landless movement and donned a
hat sporting the group's emblem.

"The militia movement is growing stronger because there is the
feeling that the government has strong links with the landless
movement and ranchers know they must protect themselves," said
Antonio Sergio Marquez, former president of the Democratic Ruralist
Union, a ranchers association.

"The government's wrongdoing is that they are not applying the law
(to protect the farmers)," said Antonio Ernesto de Salvo, president
of Brazil's National Agriculture Confederation, the nation's main
agricultural lobby.

Ranchers complain that police rarely protect landowners
when "productive" farms are invaded. The landless movement's stated
agenda is to take over "unproductive" or dormant land to push the
government to advance land reform. Brazilian law allows unproductive
farms to be seized for reform purposes.

In the first six months of this year, the number of invasions rose
62 percent over the same period last year, according to government
statistics. Through June 30, there were 114 invasions.

The government reported that 13 landless workers have been killed
this year. Landless movement leaders argue that the number of deaths
is much higher, saying more than 1,500 of their members have been
killed in the last four years.

The agricultural sector's complaints have been a delicate issue for
da Silva since he won a landslide victory in October with the
promise of improving the lives of the one-third of Brazilians who
live in poverty.

But da Silva also was elected on a moderate platform that courted
ranchers and landowners with a promise to control violence and
invasions.

Brazilian lawmakers who support farmers are calling for a
congressional investigation into the landless movement, saying its
activities are undermining the economy.

Leaders of the landless movement say the proposed investigation and
other moves are desperate acts by those who sense that a major push
for land reform is imminent.

Formally known as the Landless Rural Workers Movement, farm workers
and activists have championed a two-decade struggle aimed at undoing
a colonial legacy of land distribution that has given a small
minority control over most of the arable land.

According to statistics from 2000, about 3 percent of the population
owned more than 60 percent of the country's arable land.

"The big ranchers are getting armed because they know that land
reform is coming and there is no way to stop it," said Paulo Costa
Albuquerque, a Sao Paulo state coordinator for the landless movement.

Since taking office in January, da Silva's government has seized
nearly 600,000 acres of "unproductive" land to be distributed to
landless farmers.

But leaders in the landless movement argue the reforms are too slow
and are pushing for the settlement of 1 million landless families by
2006. The movement says 5 million families need land.

Since March, when the landless ended a moratorium on invasions,
there have been clashes throughout the country but confrontations
have stepped up dramatically in recent weeks in Parana and Sao Paulo
states.

In the fertile western tip of Sao Paulo state, about 20,000 landless
people camp alongside roads in an attempt to pressure the government.

Farther south in Parana, where Sa lives, one landless squatter was
shot.

Brazilian Justice Minister Marcio Thomaz Bastos issued a warning
hoping to defuse the potential for violence.

"Anyone - ranchers or members of the landless - who transgresses the
law will be severely punished," he said.

But Sa believes the landless camped only a few miles from his farm
are like a "rattlesnake waiting to bite."

"That is why the situation is so explosive," Sa said. "Whoever takes
the first shot could start something very violent."



_________________________________________________




More information about the Marxism mailing list