Photo: Army and Military Police round up peasants in an effort to evict them
By Jakob Stein
Last week, the reactionary Army, the National Force, and the Military Police Tactical Force evicted 400 peasant families from the Boa Esperança Camp in Porto Velho, Rondônia. The residents report that the military acted violently and set fire to the area, arresting Delson Pinto de Souza, a peasant who had been harassed and persecuted for years and has legal ownership of the Boi D’Água area where the Boa Esperança camp is located.
De Souza allowed the peasants to build the camp on his land but says that land grabbers in the region have persecuted him as a result. In the past, agents of the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio, administrative arm of the Ministry of Environment) have threatened the camp in attempts to force the peasants off their land.
The lawyer representing the displaced families, Ermogenes de Souza, has also been accused of being a mastermind in the land occupation simply for providing legal guidance. According to him, the displaced peasants were taken to a school in Rio Pardo after being evicted, displaced from their only means of subsistence and not knowing how they will eat.
A neighboring peasant exposed the reactionary old state’s priorities perfectly in an audio clip sent to revolutionary newspaper A Nova Democracia: “I am concerned about these things because we need so much , and what we hear is the whining that you have no money. And suddenly, for these things [eviction] you have plenty of money. For repression you have money. But there is no money for education, no money for meals, no money to help in [small] agriculture, no money for land regularization, but for repression there is money. I do not understand this!”
Just two days later the Attorney General of the Republic, Raquel Dodge, requested that investigations of deaths and torture in the state of Rondônia, resulting from the severe agrarian conflict in the region, be turned over to the federal government. The state of Rondônia is second only to Pará in the number of killings in agricultural fields related to land disputes.
Dodge mentions that the state government of Rondônia has not carried out sufficient investigations of murders and has allowed the violence against peasants to continue with impunity. She also highlights the role that criminal organizations have in the violence, acting on behalf of stronger groups to maintain control over land.
The statement from Dodge is revealing in that the federal government is openly admitting the state’s inadequate response to torture and murder of poor peasants, suggesting a certain level of collusion with the latifundio and the paramilitary gangs that serve them. However, her words ring hollow in the face of President Jair Bolsonaro’s open support for violence against poor landless peasants. In April he announced a bill that would exempt landowners from punishment when they shoot occupying peasants and treat the struggle for land as terrorist activity.
The anti-people violence in the Brazilian countryside has killed and displaced a great many poor farmers and caused untold suffering, however it has also steeled the peasants in the struggle for land. The poor and landless peasants hunger for an end to the old semifeudal order of exploitation and dispossession and are taking up the fight for New Democratic Revolution to meet these ends.