Cícero Guedes, coordinator of the occupation of the Cambahyba Mill, is assassinated in Rio

Rural worker and MST activist Cícero Guedes was assassinated by gunmen on Friday, January 25 near the Cambahyba Mill, in the township of  cicero guedesCampos dos Goytacazes (RJ).

Cícero was shot in the head when he left the settlement on his bicycle. Born in Alagoas, he was a cane cutter and coordinated the MST occupation of the mill, which is a complex of seven farms totaling 3500 hectares.

This large estate (latifundio) was ruled unproductive according to the decision made by Federal Judge Dario Ribeiro Machado Junior, issued in June. The area belongs to the late Heli Ribeiro Gomes, former deputy governor of Rio and is now controlled by his heirs.

Cícero Guedes had been a settler since 2002 in the Brava Gente Ranch in the north of Rio de Janeiro state in the Zumbi dos Palmares settlement, but he continued to carry on the struggle for agrarian reform.  He was a source of knowledge about agro-ecology for the comrades in the Movement as well as for the students and professors of the University of Fluminense North.

On his land, he developed techniques for organic farming with a diversity of plants, respecting nature and taking advantage of all that it could give. He began with the planting of a “live” fence of a type of mimosa bush that beautified his property and also served as a good source of income.

Cícero was also known for his banana trees, planted in many parts of his plot intermixed with vegetables, corn and fruit.  His children grew up seeing the experience develop and learning with their father that organic produce is of better quality than that from the supermarket.

The farmer-settler Cícero Guedes dos Santos, from the beginning of the occupation of that piece of land in 2002, already wanted to have a diversity of plants in his area, respecting nature and taking advantage of all that it could give. And nature was the source of inspiration for this type of consciousness and the understanding of nature caused this feeling for conservation and living in harmony with nature to grow day-by-day.

Violence of the latifundio

The latifundio has been the stage for every type of violence: exploitation of child labor, exploitation of slave labor,  failure to pay workers’ wages, as well as environmental crimes.

In December, the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária, INCRA) committed to create a settlement in the area of the mill but until now the families have not been settled on the land.

The death of Comrade Cícero is the result of the violence of the latifundio, of impunity regarding deaths of the Landless and of the slowness of INCRA to settle the families and carry out agrarian reform. The MST demands that the guilty parties be indicted, convicted, and imprisoned.

The farms of the Cambahyba Mill get millions in loans from the State and its process of expropriation has been paralyzed for 14 years -- since INCRA ruled that the land was unproductive and subject to expropriation for agrarian reform.

However the debt that the mill owes is not limited to the financial aspect. Last May, Brazilians were horrified by the revelation that the ovens of Cambahyba were used to incinerate the bodies of 10 political activists during the civilian-military dictatorship. The confession of the former delegate of the Department for Political and Social Order (DOPS), Claudio Guerra, states the fact in the book, “Memories of a Dirty War” and it was published in the press.

Up to now however the Federal Court has prevented the expropriation of the area and has already carried out violent evictions of the families who claim the land. This is the second time that the MST has carried out an occupation in the area of the mill.

The first time was in 2000 and six years later, the Federal and Military Police, on the decision of the Federal Court of Campos, evicted the 100 families who created the encampment Oziel Alves II.

Authorities express regrets on the killing of the MST coordinator in Rio

The Director of the Office of Human Rights in the office of the president, the Minister of Agrarian Development and INCRA, expressed regrets on the killing of the MST coordinator Cícero Guedes and condemned the latifundio violence in Campos dos Goytacazes in the north of Rio de Janeiro state.

The burial was carried out on Sunday afternoon in the Campo de Paz Cemetery. Besides family members and friends, those present included MST activists and settlers from the region. Carlos Guedes, president of INCRA, State Deputy Marcelo Freixo, and Bishop of Campos Dom Roberto Francisco Ferreira Paz, also attended the service.

The federal agencies hold the Courts responsible for the slowness in creating the settlement. Only in August 2012, after 14 years of the dispute, the court authorized INCRA to proceed with the expropriation of the farms.

"The land dispute situation in the region between Campo dos Goytacazes and São João da Barra has been exacerbated by delays in completion of legal proceedings involving properties considered unproductive and thus subject to expropriation for agrarian reform," said the Minister of Human Rights in the office of the Presidency, Maria do Rosário.

“The specific case of the occupation led by Cícero is a good example: INCRA determined 14 years ago that farms that make up the Cambahyba Mill should be expropriated. But only in August 2012 did the Court authorize the federal agency to proceed with the expropriation of the properties”, stated the Minister.

 “The Ministry of Agrarian Development and INCRA mourn the death of Cícero Guedes dos Santos.  As soon as we learned of it, we contacted the relevant authorities asking them to prioritize the investigations into the motives and punish those responsible for this barbarous crime”, the agrarian reform agencies noted in a statement.

State Deputy Marcelo Freixo, president of the Human Rights Commission of the State Assembly of Rio, believes that the killing of Cícero was a political crime. “There is a suspect and everything indicates that this was an execution since all the belongings of the victim were present. The region has many conflicts because of the large quantity of land. I believe it was a political crime”, he said.

“The death is the sign that the authorities are incapable of seeing what is so visible, which is impunity. It’s cowardice not to carry out agrarian reform, even more cowardice not to punish the killers and even more to allow the slowness of the bureaucracy not to do its part, leading the workers to death. Each one has a piece of the blame. It’s necessary to react, we are going to oppose the crimes of agrarian reform, one of the ways is to do it”, stated Maria de Oliveira, former superintendent of INCRA in Pernambuco and technical director of the Institute of Land and Agrarian Reform of Pernambuco.

“While the Brazilian State does not carry out agrarian reform, does not take a position in relation to the concentration of land, the Brazilian people and primarily those who struggle in an organized way, continue to die at the hands of power. We have no way to arrive at peace in the countryside without agrarian reform”, stated Oliveira.

For Marcos Antonio Pedlowski, Professor in the State University of North Fluminense, the social movements should demand the investigation and imprisonment of the killers, in addition to continuing the organizational effort. “Cícero is one more death for those who are opposed to agrarian reform and the structural transformations that we need in Brazil”, the professor believes.