Urgent action regarding violence against landless in Pernambuco

Thursday, June 7, 2012

bannersDear Friends of the MST,

On behalf of my brothers and sisters of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil, I salute you.

I write to tell you about the grave threats we are facing here in Pernambuco, Brazil, and ask for your help.

Armed thugs hired by large landowners are shooting at landless farmers; heavily armed landowners are routinely threatening and beating landless farmers; [rather than protecting those in danger from these actions,] the police are acting as private security forces of the landowners. All the while, judges and district attorneys legitimatize the use of violence and the presence of armed militias by landowners. Many of my brothers and sisters, landless families who are members of the MST, are the targets of these human rights violations.

Mainstream newspapers and websites are not reporting this information. But that is our reality here in Brazil. We are fighting every day for our lives, because our land rights are threatened by development projects and landowners.

Let me provide you more of details of what it is going on here:

On February 19, 2012, an employee  of the Serro Azul farm, Mr. Luiz Reis, was armed and accompanied by three hired body guards. Mr. Reis threatened and choked Ms. Josefa Maria de Belquior, a landless woman.

Mr. Reis is angry because Josefa and other peasants decided to occupy the underutilized farmland of Serro Azul, as a way to pressure local authorities to grant permission for the landless families to use the land to grow food (which is a Constitutional right in Brazil!). Since then, these families have received threats and suffered physical violence by Mr. Reis, his hired gunmen and local policemen from the towns of Altinho and Agrestina. The families have been evicted twice, once in October 2011 and again last March. Despite of the police brutality, they continue to be resilient in the struggle for their legal rights to land.

Then on March 22, landless farmer Mr. Antonio was stopped by Mr. Luiz Reis and four other people in the road between the rural village of Santo Antonio and the Serro Azul camp. Mr. Reis and his group pointed guns at Mr. Antonio’s head and brutally assaulted him by kicking him in the body and head. Mr. Antonio sustained many bruises and a broken rib.

The very next day on March 23, gunmen shot at peasant families who were encamped near the Cerro Azul and wounded two women and a teenager.

These are just a few examples among many others. I hope you can help us stop this brutality and impunity against landless families in Pernambuco. With your letter to Brazilian authorities, you and I will be able to stop this madness against farmers whose rights are assured in the Brazilian constitution and international laws.

In solidarity,

Cassia Bechara