[07/01/08] TAKE ACTION NOW!! - Send Letters Decrying Public Ministry Plans to “dissolve” the MST

The MST needs your support to stop a campaign to criminalize all social movement activity in Rio Grande do Sul

In late June, the MST presented a document to the public that proves a strategy on the part of the Rio Grande do Sul State Public Ministry to “dissolve” the MST. The document outlines a meeting, on December 3, 2007, during which the State Public Ministry decided to outlaw any mobilization of landless workers, including marches and walks, to intervene in settlement schools, to criminalize leaders and members and to “deactivate” all the encampments in Rio Grande do Sul.

Please read below for additional details and instructions for the letter writing campaign to prevent action by the State Public Ministry of Rio Grande do Sul.

The decisions of the State Public Ministry are already being put into practice. Recently two encampments, located in areas that had been ceded, were evicted and the Nueva Santa Rita encampment in a settlement area was surrounded, with the families legally prevented from entering or leaving the encampment. The position of the Public Ministry agrees with increasing the use of violence by the Military Police against mobilizations of any social movement, such as that on June 11, when dozens of people were hit by rubber bullets and clubs. A farmer suffered an internal hemorrhage as a result of the attacks and remained hospitalized for a week.

According to the lawyer Leandro Scalabrin, who made the accusation, the decision of the Public Ministry violates the International Treaty on Civil and Political Rights, in particular article 22, item 1. This treaty was recognized by the Brazilian government through Decree nº 592, on July 6, 1992. It also violates the Federal Constitution, article 5, paragraph XVII, which says “freedom of association for legal purposes is total, that of a paramilitary character is forbidden.”

The report itself contradicts the statements of the Prosecutors: an investigation of the Federal Police, carried out between January and August last year, verified that there is “no connection between the FARC in that location” and concludes that “no crime against state security exists”.

The discovery of the contents of this document verifies that Rio Grande do Sul is today the scene of a strategy by the executive and judicial powers to threaten and eradicate the freedoms that were won when the military dictatorship ended. The content of the documents and the practice of these institutions represents a return to authoritarianism, to disrespect for civil society political and social plurality.

These powers are financed by those who constitute real threats to national security: businesses such as Stora Enso (Swedish-Finnish), a donor to the electoral campaign of the governor, which acquires lands illegally in the border area, violating Brazilian law with the consent of the executive and judicial powers.

State Coordination – MST-RS

Please send the following message, with a copy to dhmst@uol.com.br, info@mstbrazil.org, and imprensa@mst.org.br

Send to:

Señora Yeda Crusius, M.D. Governor of the State of Rio Grande do Sul governadora@gg.rs.gov.br

C/C General Solicitor Dr. Mauro Renner pgj@mp.rs.gov.br

We condemn the initiative of the Superior Council of Public Ministry of the State of Rio Grande do Sul

[Name of organization or Individual Name], asks you to firmly condemn the initiative of the General Staff of the Military Brigade of Rio Grande do Sul and the initiative of the Superior Council of the Public Ministry of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, and the initiative of the Federal Public Ministry.

On September 20, 2007 while acting as General Subcommander of the Military Brigade Cel. . QOEM – Paulo Roberto Mendes Rodrigues, sent report no. 1124-100-PM2-2007 to the General Commander of the Military Brigade suggesting that all possible actions be taken to impede the three columns of the MST that were walking toward Coqueiros do Sul, if they were found. The report contained a secret investigation about the MST, its leaders, the number of members and its activities in Rio Grande do Sul. The report was sent to the Public Ministry of the State of Rio Grande do Sul and to the Federal Public Ministry.

In the report, the military force of Rio Grande do Sul characterizes the MST and La Via Campesina as movements that were no longer carrying out actions to highlight their social demands but were organizing actions that could be characterized as criminal. The conclusion of the report condemns “the view that holds that actions carried out for social movements should not be condemned as crimes but rather as a legitimate means of protesting.” The report was also directed to the regional deputies, mayors, members of INCRA and certain other agencies.

As a result of this action by the Military Brigade, the State Public Ministry intervened with an action preventing the MST marches from entering the four towns of the district of Carazinho in Rio Grande do Sul and various legal motions were passed to try to remove the children from the families who were demonstrating.

The initiatives of the Military Brigade were unprecedented in Brazil since the end of the military dictatorship because they are contrary to the Federal Constitution of 1988 that forbids the military police from acting in legal investigations of social movements and political parties. Article 144 of the Federal Constitution establishes that military police are responsible for the preservation of public order. The Military Brigade assumed the role of the civil police and the Federal police. On December 3, 2007, the Superior Council of the Public Ministry approved the report that was elaborated by the prosecutor Gilberto Thums (process nº 16315-09-00/07-9) referring to the administrative process applied by Decree 01/2007.

The group of investigators had a goal of seeking information about the MST.

The final report of the group of investigators needs to be rejected by all of society. One of the decisions made by the Public Ministry was along the lines of “(...) designating a team of Prosecutors to promote a public civil action with a view toward the dissolution of the MST and the declaration of its illegality(...)”.

As if the intention of declaring the MST illegal were not enough, the Public Ministry decided “(...) to intervene in the MST schools with a goal of taking measures that will be necessary for retraining in legality, in reference to the pedagogic aspect and the structure of the external influence of the MST”.

The decision of the Public Ministry violates the International Treaty on Civil and Political Rights, especially article 22, nº 1. This treat was recognized by the Brazilian Government through Decree nº 592 of July 6, 1992.

On March 11, 2008, the Federal Public Ministry denounced eight supposed members of the MST for “joining groups that had as an objective the change of the effective order in Brazil”, the practice of crimes by political nonconformity, crimes spelled in the Law of National Security of the former Brazilian dictatorship, in making reference in its accusations of the MST encampments constituting a “parallel state” and that the actions against national security would be receiving support from foreign organizations such as La Via Campesina and the FARC, besides the foreigners would be in charge of military training.

The theses that constantly appear in the accusations were formulated by the owner of the Guerra Ranch, a member of the ranchers’ organization FARSUL in 2005, and ratified by the Colonel of the Military Brigade Valdir Cerutti Reis, a member of the Brazilian military dictatorship who infiltrated the Natalino encampment for a period of two years, using the alias Toninho. His work was to try to convince the families in the encampment to leave the movement and accept parcels of land offered by the military dictatorship in Lucas do Rio Verde, in Mato Grosso. The action of the Federal Public Ministry is contrary to the conclusions of the legal investigation carried out by the Federal Police, which investigated the MST for the entire year of 2007 and concluded that there are no ties between the MST and the FARC nor are there any foreigners who are carrying out guerilla training in the movement’s encampments, nor have there been any crimes committed that threaten national security.

The MST is one of the most important social movements in our history, exactly because of its policy of non-violent struggle. Please accept our firm condemnation of the decision taken by the Superior Council of the Public Ministry, by the General Staff of the Military Brigade and by the decision of the Federal Public Ministry.

We state our strong support for the struggle of the MST.