By Jakob Stein
The past several weeks have shown both the villainous actions of the latifundio and police as well as the heroic struggle of the peasants in the Brazilian countryside. The Bolsonaro government has instituted a new wave of land reintegration against peasants who have fought to transform fallow lands, previously owned by large corporations and abusive landlords, into productive farms and communities as part of the agrarian revolution in the country.
On July 9 in northern Minas Gerais, in the municipality of Miravânia, a major operation involving more than one hundred military police ended with the seizing of land and destruction of family homes in the Olaria Barra do Mirador Community. Armed military police threatened peasants into signing agreements that legalized the theft of their land, financed and orchestrated by Walter Arantes.
Arantes, known in the region as “Waltinho,” is a notorious grileiro, a landlord who falsifies documents in order to steal land from poor peasants, who was recently imprisoned for money laundering and has faced numerous lawsuits ranging from environmental destruction to illicit enrichment. The reintegration plan was carried out sneakily, with families receiving virtually no warning prior to the police invasion in an attempt to prevent any resistance from the peasants.
The families of the Olaria Barra do Mirador Community, supported by the League of Poor Peasants (LCP) of the North of Minas and South of Bahia, have occupied nineteen previously unproductive lands. The Defense Committee of the Families of Olaria Barra do Mirador stated, “If anyone intends to commit this crime against families, he will provoke the daylight and have no peace in his life! We are not alone in this fight!”
The committee has also made it clear that it will not recognize any judicial ruling other than an immediate suspension of the reintegration and the legalization of the peasant estates in the area.
Supporters of the Olaria Barra do Mirador Community carried out a blockade of the road that connects the municipalities of Januaria and Miravânia with burning planks of wood and banners denouncing the infamous grileiro “Waltinho” Arantes and the military police in response to the illegitimate land grab.
On July 2, in the Barrolândia district in southern Bahia, peasants who had been previously forced out of their land on behalf of the multinational corporation Veracel Celulose, fought back against the armed “private security firm” GPS. The armed paramilitary, known for repeated acts of aggression and intimidation against the peasant families who occupied the region, tried to force families who were camped by the road out of the area, but were met with sticks, machetes, and scythes. The encounter ended with GPS abandoning the area with one “security” officer injured, and six of their cars set ablaze.
On June 25, dozens of workers blocked the highway leading into the city of Pau D’Arco in Pará, in protest against the new threat of reintegration against Camp Jane Júlia. The encampment has resumed production on the same land as the Fazenda Santa Lucia community, which was previously demolished after a police invasion in 2017 that resulted in the torture and slaughter of ten peasants.
Due to strong mobilizations of peasants supported by the LCP of Southern Pará and Tocantins, the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) was forced to recognize the land tenure in the favor of the peasants, months after the slaughter. Even though the state has recognized their claim to the land, the threat of reintegration still looms in the horizon, while many of the police who took part in the slaughter are still free two years later.
Across the country, peasants are fighting in the agrarian revolution as part of the struggle for New Democracy against semi-feudalism and the reactionary state. They face repeated attacks to their homes and communities but remain steadfast in their struggle for land and against exploitation.