Stedile, leader of the Landless Workers' Movement, confronts Bolsonaro supporters at the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry

Wednesday, August 16, 2023
Info Source: 
By: Igor Carvalho | Brasil de Fato | Brasília (Brazil) | Edited by: Thalita Pires | Translated by: Lucas Peresin | Original URL:

The leader testified for seven hours and criticized agribusiness and former President Bolsonaro's allies

Federal deputies Zucco (Republicans Party - state of Rio Grande do Sul) and Ricardo Salles (Liberal Party - state of São Paulo), president and rapporteur of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) investigating the Landless Workers' Movement (MST), respectively, prepared a war environment to receive João Pedro Stedile, leader of the movement, who testified this Tuesday, August 15, at the commission.

On the eve of the testimony, Salles and Zucco decided that the session would take place in Plenary 4, which seats 80 people. Plenary 2, where the Commission of Inquiry meetings normally take place, sits 150 people. Behind the scenes, it was evident that the measure was taken to prevent MST militants from occupying the room and influencing the environment.

Before the starting of the session, Salles and Stedile had already met near the door of the plenary and exchanged a handshake, provoked by Roberto Podval, lawyer for the MST leader, but who also advocates for the former Brazilian minister. After greeting each other, both smiled.

Stedile was instructed by his defense team and movement advisers to avoid teasing and joking about Bolsonaro supporters. Nor would he answer personal questions, leaving his testimony limited to his trajectory as a militant and leader of the movement.

Usually, Zucco positions the deponent next to the rapporteur, so that Salles can question the witnesses more closely, physically imposing himself. However, interlocutors of the federal deputy and Stedile thought it would be better to intervene, so that they could sit on opposite sides of the table. And so, it was done: the former Minister of the Environment was on the far left and the leader of the Landless Workers' Movement on the right.

The candidate

After half an hour of speech during the opening of the session, the rapporteur's regimented right, Salles asked for another 30 minutes, which were approved by Zucco. Since time is paralyzed during the deponent's response, the former Minister of the Environment spoke for three hours, heard by the 29 federal deputies enrolled in the commission.

Stedile answered each question in depth, explaining theories and putting arguments in defense of agrarian reform on the table. To the surprise of government supporters and opposition supporters, he was not interrupted by the Zucco-Salles duo.

They ran away

As time went by, the tactic adopted by Stédile's defense, avoiding confrontation and irony, a gimmick appreciated by the MST leader, worked and the session, which needed to be tumultuous to please the far-right social media, was tepid, stagnant in Bolsonaro supporters' lack of knowledge.

After the long intervention by Salles and Stedile's tranquility, who remained undisturbed by opposition questions, Bolsonaro supporters began to leave the session. Analyzing the far-right elite squad participating in the commission, which is usually strident, what attracted attention was the fact that federal deputies Gustavo Gayer (Liberal Party - state of Goiás), Zé Trovão (Liberal Party - state of Santa Catarina), Marcos Pollon (Liberal Party - state of Mato Grosso do Sul) and Capitão Alden (Liberal Party - state of Bahia) left before their names were even announced and did not want to face the Landless Workers' Movement leader.

After more than six hours of session, government supporters and the MST leadership left the room relieved, with the feeling that Stedile's testimony put an end to the Commission of Inquiry. "The deputies from the agro-military base did not expect this testimony. In fact, the CPI served for MST leaders to tell the history of the movement and its purposes. This CPI ends today, from now on its just claptrap. Today was the closing with a golden key," said Ney Strozake, lawyer for the MST leader.

Deputy Marcon (Workers' Party - state of Rio Grande do Sul) corroborated the feeling of finishing the CPI work. "This CPI may have ended today, but they will struggle until the last minute, and there is still the Salles report, which will criminalize the MST. Let's wait, but there's nothing else to happen, now we just have to wait for the report," he said.

CPI history

Heralded as a possibility by Bolsonarists since the beginning of the year, the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on the MST became a reality in April 2023, the period in which the already traditional landless workers' day of struggles takes place in memory of Eldorado do Carajás Massacre, when the movement occupies unproductive areas with no social function in different regions of the country.

Among the government supporters, the expectation is that the CPI would be transformed into a circus, with inflammatory speeches for social networks and the attempt to impose narratives. The start was given by the committee's rapporteur, Ricardo Salles, who said this Tuesday, during his arrival at the National Congress, that he intends to "establish the idea that there is a law in Brazil that protects private property."

Since the news of the commission's installation came out, lawyers from different parts of the country have started to offer help to the movement. Among them, the Grupo Prerrogativas, of which Marco Aurélio Carvalho is a member, who spoke to Brasil de Fato about the line of defense of the movement in the CPI, which contradicts the rapporteur's thesis.

On May 2, the Brazilian Association  of Jurists for Democracy (ABJD) released a note condemning the establishment of the CPI. According to the movement, the commission has "dubious constitutionality," as it was established "with no determined fact and with the undue purpose of 'investigating' a legal entity ruled by private law."

The initiative would be, according to the ABJD, "in the process led by the neoliberal right, one more step of persecution, discredit and demonization of social movements," says the note from the jurists, who understand that the CPI takes place "as a stage for political disputes on issues such as the struggle for land and territory, and a strategy of criminalizing the leaders of movements that organize rural workers, considered enemies by them."

For João Pedro Stédile, the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry was created to try to destabilize the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Workers' Party). "They want to corner the government. [The CPI is] much more, from the point of view of the political struggle, against the government than against us. It's like saying to the government: 'don't advance in agrarian reform, don't present an agrarian reform plan, don't help the MST'," he added.