Military Police violently evict hundreds of families in Aracruz

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Military Police (PM) resorted to fierce and brutal measures on Wednesday May 18 in their efforts to clear a section of land in the Nova Esperança neighourhood in Barra do Riacho, Aracruz. The Nova Esperança neighbourhood was formed following the occupation of an area in the Barra do Riacho district, and it now contains 330 families (1,600 inhabitants), among which 550 are children.

 The war-like measures to which the PM resorted were realized through the Special Missions Battalion (BME), the Operational Support Group (GAO), the Ostensive Metropolitan Tactics Patrol (Rondas Ostensivas Táticas Metropolitanas – ROTAM), 400 military policemen, snipers, a helicopter, horses, tear gas, rubber bullets, war cries, tractors, insults, humiliations and threats. In the face of an unarmed population – women, children, the elderly and disabled – police action at the  scene revealed the extreme cowardice, indifference and political incapacity of the state and municipal governments, as well as of the command Espírito Santo's Military Police.

 Residents were injured and no aid was given. Besides all the savagery, the violent siege caused the death of 48 year-old Santa da Silva Peçanha, who died after suffering a stroke on May 19. The death was confirmed by São Camilo Hospital, Aracruz.

 In the area which spreads over 52,000m2, families had built houses and had themselves conducted a topographical survey of the place. Among the more than 300 families registered by the NGO Friends of Barra do Riacho, a number were evicted from homes for being unable to pay rent while others handed over furniture for the same reasons. The settlers also have the support of the Movement of Small Agricultors (MPA), the Unified Union of Orla Portuária (Suport-Espírito Santo), the Landless Rural Workers' Movement, and traders and residents of Barra do Riacho.

 Below follows a note of repudiation written by Via Campesina-Espírito Santo about what happened.

 Note of Repudiation by La Via Campesina-ES

La Via Campesina – ES (CPT, MPA, PJR, MST, APTA) would like to express its anger and outrage towards the human rights violations committed in the Aracruz Municipality against occupying residents of Barra do Riacho district.

 Members of La Via Campesina's coordination were at the scene and spoke with families about what had happened.

 The first signs of the brutality that ensued were witnessed at the entrance of the district, where two groups of houses were reduced to mountains of rubble.

 There were reports of aggression, of the violence that followed amid the rubber bullets, the tear gas and the machines used to destroy houses with all of the families' belongings inside. Families were even unable to retrieve their identity documents. A number of people were wounded, but the biggest wound that we found was in their own self esteem – in the soul.

 Present at the scene were representatives of the State Council of Human Rights, the Center for the Defense of Human Rights (CDDH), the National Movement for the Struggle for Housing, the Church, the state deputy Genivaldo and senator Ana Rita, both of whom were representing the human rights commissions of the legislative assembly and the Senate, respectively. The senator was categorical  in affirming that she is on the side of the people and that she would do everything to make sure justice is done. Both, along with a number of others, formed a small committee which met with the mayor, but we do not have any information about what happened during the meeting.

All statements were unanimous in blaming the state government for the atrocity since it is, along with the mayor, the representative of the Military Police.

 The violence brought back memories of the village water hole incident in which federal officers treated with equal ferocity our indigenous partners, showing once again that the coronelism of the past still persists in the municipality, albeit disguised as legitimate businesses. It happened with our Quilombolas partners of São Domingos in Sapê do Norte and it has happened in several other cases in Espírito Santo.

 This modus operandi of the Military Police cannot continue. According to the president of the State Council of Human Rights, who himself was prevented from reaching the scene of police violence, another form of intervention based on respect and negotiation must be defined. He went on to say that this was something he and the Governor had spoken about.

 We at La Via Campesina are mourning the death of Dona Santa, who fell in the struggle at the hands of the cowardly Military Police. If our governor knows how to honor the flood of votes he received, including the votes of those beaten by police during the eviction, he will ensure a thorough investigation of the incident.

 The most important thing that was noticed is that the people are united and willing to persist in the struggle. According to one of the leaders of the movement, Valdinei, “more than for us, it [the struggle] will be for Dona Santa” and he suggested that as soon as the settlers get their houses back, the community will be renamed in her honor. Society should know that in a 21st century democratic state which observes the rule of law, the leadership of the movement continues being hunted and threatened. Society must be supportive and stand in solidarity with the movement so that no harm will come to them.

 The question remains: how many more? What country is this that speaks of ending poverty for good?

 We continue in solidarity with all who fight for dignity, justice and freedom of expression.

 The families are being housed in an open sports block in what is now wintertime. Donations of clothes, tarpaulins, and food and hygiene products are welcomed.








 translated by Eric H.