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Criminalization of the struggle for land
Latinamerica Press
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Landless Rural Workers’ Movement denounces violent police operation to detain their leaders and accuse them of miscellaneous crimes.

On Nov. 4, police agents carried out an operation, under the codename Castra, in the southeastern states of São Paulo, Paraná and Mato Grosso do Sul, aimed at arresting members of the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST). A series of arrest warrants were issued on that date for the leaders of the Dom Tomás Balduino and Herdeiros da Luta pela Terra (Land Struggle Heirs) camps.

“In the camps of the MST in the central region of Paraná, where most of the arrested and jailed workers live, some 3,000 encamped families have since May 2014 occupied the areas illegally seized by the Araupel Company. These areas were declared public land by the Federal Court, belonging to the State to be devoted for Agrarian Reform,” a statement from the MST read.

In Guararema, São Paulo, police members raided the Florestan Fernandes National School of the MST, where they arrested two militants. In Mato Grosso do Sul, three police vehicles broke into the Geraldo Garcia Research Center and Professional School, located in Sidrolandia, unsuccessfully looking for militants of the MST of Paraná.

According to the MST, eight leaders have been arrested and the police continue with the search for other landless workers under various chargers, including criminal association.

Araupel is a logging company established in 1997 from the merger of the Madeireira Giacomet and Marodin Exportaçao groups. It has been present in Paraná since 1910 where it extracts pine and eucalyptus wood in lands belonging to the Brazilian state.

The National Institute of Agrarian Reform and Colonization (INCRA), in an official memo dated this past Apr. 8, denounced that the company operates irregularly “in part of an area considered to be public, with a historical conflict and environmental degradation in the region, replacing the native forests with large-scale monoculture of pine and araucaria destined for the lumber industry.”

Logging company behind police operation
Approximately two decades ago, the MST settled in the lands illegally occupied by Araupel, a conflict that has extended to the present. In 1997, gunmen hired by Araupel killed two landless workers, and on this past Apr. 7, families who were organized in the Dom Tomás Balduino Camp were victims of an ambush by the Military Police and security guards hired by the company. Two landless workers, Vilmar Bordim and Leomar Orback were shot and killed. Both cases remain unpunished.

The lawyers of the MST, Giane Alvares, Juvelino Strozake, Luciana Pivato, Diego Vedovatto and Paulo Freire, published a statement on Nov. 6 in relation to the Castra operation in which they reiterate that “the MST is a legitimate popular social movement,” adding that “all Brazilian citizens have the right to assembly and reunion, including to fight for agrarian reform, as well as for the rural and urban properties of the country to meet their social function. It is illegal and abusive to use Law 12850/13 (Criminal Associations Law) for the simple fact of being militant persons of the MST.”

They accused the Judicial Branch and the Civil Police of Paraná of not having acted impartially to criminalize the social struggle in the region. “The illegalities committed during the course of the Castra operation are serious and flagrant. These are seven unjustified actions carried out by police agents of the Armed Group for Repression against Robberies and Holdups in the Florestan Fernandes National School in São Paulo, without identification, without a court order, invading the school property and firing lethal weapons and making threats, even death threats, to students and workers there at the time,” they said.

Finally, they stated that “the relevant measures and appeals are now being prepared to secure the dismissal of the arbitrary arrests and to denounce the illegal actions committed.”

For the Pastoral Land Commission, of the Catholic Church, the increase in violence in the rural areas, which left 50 people dead in 2015, is worrisome. —Latinamerica Press.

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