[Marxism] Corporate murder in Brazil

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Oct 29 08:34:10 MDT 2007

Landless Rural Worker Shot by Security Company Hired by Multinational 

By Isabella Kenfield & Roger Burbach

In the Brazilian state of Paraná, Valmir Mota de Oliveira of Via 
Campesina, an international peasant organization, was shot twice in the 
chest at point blank range by armed gunmen on an experimental farm of 
Syngenta Seeds, a multinational agribusiness corporation. The cold 
blooded murder took place on Sunday, October 21 after Via Campesina had 
occupied the site because of Syngenta’s illegal development of 
genetically modified (GM) seeds. Via Campesina and the Movement of the 
Landless Rural Workers (MST), the main Brazilian organization involved 
in Via Campesina’s actions, are calling the murder an execution, 
declaring, “Syngenta used the services of an armed militia.”

Syngenta is the world’s largest producer of agrochemicals and the third 
largest commercial seed producer. Between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta was 
responsible for the largest case of genetic contamination on the planet 
when its GM Bt-10 corn, approved for only animal feeds, was mixed with 
US grain meant for human consumption. Via Campesina first occupied 
Syngenta’s site in March 2006, after it discovered that Syngenta was 
illegally cultivating GM soybeans and corn. The occupation drew strong 
international support, and in November state governor Roberto Requião 
signed a decree of intent to expropriate the Syngenta farm, proposing to 
turn it into an agroecological research center that would benefit poor 
rural families.  The decree was a huge political victory for the rural 
and environmental movements, challenging the power of agribusiness in 

When the MST organized a march to the Syngenta site in late November 
last year, its busses were halted by a blockade of tractors formed by 
about a hundred members of the Rural Society of the West, a group 
representing large landowners and commercial agricultural producers in 
western Paraná.  It is part of a larger network known as ruralistas, 
which represent reactionary landed and agribusiness interests at the 
regional, state and national levels.  Some Society members were on 
horseback and armed with guns. As the marchers began to cross the 
barricade, the Society fired shots into the air, and beat the marchers 
with sticks and clubs, resulting in the injury of nine people.

When asked why the organization had confronted the MST, Alessandro 
Meneghel, President of the Rural Society, responded: "to show that the 
rural producers do not peacefully accept land invasions and political 
provocations…Attitudes such as these, of legally questionable [land] 
expropriations, send a bad message to investors, chasing them away and 
provoking ‘Brazil risk.’” Meneghel threatened: “For every invasion of 
land that occurs in the region, there will be a similar action by the 
Society.  We are not going to permit the rural producers … to be 
insulted by ideological political movements of any kind.”

Syngenta, through its alliances with the Rural Society and other large 
landed interests, succeeded in overturning Governor Requião’s decree. 
In July of this year, the Via Campesina was evicted from the site, 
re-locating to the MST’s Olga Benário settlement, located next to 
Syngenta.  The de-occupation occurred in conjunction with a peaceful 
march by the movements, after Requião ordered the police to stop the 
Rural Society from confronting the marchers. Control of the property was 
returned to Syngenta, and it was then that the corporation hired the 
private NF Security company to guard the site.
A statement on Syngenta’s web site claims the corporation “specifically 
agreed in the contract with [NF] security company not to use any force 
or carry weapons.” Yet in late July, families at Olga Benário were 
threatened by armed NF security guards, which entered the settlement and 
remained there for about 40 minutes. At night, the guards would fire 
shots in the air. These events were reported to the authorities.

As a result, in October the federal police raided NF Security’s 
headquarters, where it confiscated illegal arms and ammunition. The 
police report concludes that the NF Security company contracts 
individuals, many with criminal records, to form armed militias that 
carry out forced land evictions, and that the Rural Society numbers 
among its clients.
At dawn on October 21st, about 150 members of Via Campesina reoccupied 
Syngenta’s site, where they encountered four armed security guards, who 
were disarmed and left the site. At about 1 in the afternoon, Via 
Campesina reports, “a bus stopped in front of the entry gate and about 
forty armed gunmen got out, firing machine guns at the people that they 
saw in the encampment.  They broke down the gate, then shot [Mota].  T 
he militia attacked the encampment to assassinate the leaders and 
recover the illegal arms of the NF Security company.”

Five MST/Via Campesina members were wounded and remain hospitalized. 
Security guard Fábio Ferreira, who apparently returned to the site, was 
also killed. The reason for his death is unclear, although one MST 
member believes Ferreira was murdered because he had incriminating 
information he might have divulged. MST members Célia Lourenço and Celso 
Barbosa were chased and shot at, but managed to escape. It appears the 
two were targeted to die like Mota.  Earlier this year, Meneghel of the 
Rural Society verbally threatened Lourenço at a public forum, and the 
MST reports that on March 27th, its office in Cascavel, Paraná received 
an anonymous phone call advising Mota, Lourenço and Barbosa to be 
careful because “a trap was being prepared for them.” Mota himself 
registered the death threats with the local authorities.  On August 28, 
Terra de Direitos, a human rights organization, registered the threats 
with the National Program of Human Rights Defenders, and requested 
protection for the three.

The owner of NF Security, Nerci Freitas, has admitted he gave the order 
for the attack on Syngenta. He has been arrested and charged with 
homicide and formation of gangs. No one has claimed that the Via 
Campesina/MST occupants were armed. The organizations are calling for 
the immediate arrest of Meneghel, and are demanding that Syngenta leave 
Brazil immediately, declaring, “Syngenta Seeds should be held 
responsible for what occurred.”

Mota’s murder exhibits an unsettling arrogance and dismissal of the law 
and the government by the Rural Society, NF Security and Syngenta, not 
unlike that being played out on a grander scale by the Blackwater 
security company and US corporate interests in Iraq.  It also highlights 
the increasing number of conflicts between agribusiness and rural civil 
society sweeping Latin America, as the alliance between national and 
international agribusiness deepens from country to country.  Mota’s 
death could well signal a new era of continental violence and bloodshed 
as the powerful agribusiness interests come up against the progressive 
social movements that are shaking the Americas.

Isabella Kenfield is an associate of the Center for the Study of the 
America (CENSA) who has just returned from living in Brazil. She writes 
on agribusiness, agrarian conflicts and social movements.

Roger Burbach is director of CENSA who has written extensively on Latin 
America and US policy. He is currently at work on “The New Fire in the 

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