[1/20/10] A farmer against Katia Abreu
Small farmer Juarez Vieira Reis goes up in Court against one of the leaders of Congress' Rural Bench, who took his lands seven years ago. by Eduardo Sales de Lima of the Sem Terra Editorial Staff
The farmer Juarez Vieira Reis was expelled in 2003 from the land where he had lived since he was born, in Tocantins, due to a legal intervention by order of Senator Kátia Abreu (DEM/TO). Abreu had received Juarez's land as a gift from former Tocantins governor Siqueira Campos. The Campos Lindos Agricultural Project, created in 1999, has expelled dozens of small proprietors from their land in order to hand it over to wealthy political figures; including the President of the National Agricultural Confederation (CNA), a group uniting the large rural landowners.
Among the lands “donated” by Siqueira Campos to Kátia Abreu is Coqueiro farm: the 545 hectares where Juarez lived all his life. In December 2002, the Senator came in with a repossession order for the area which had been given to her. She overrode the prescription order that was in effect, which legally supported the Juarez family's residence on the property. The Tocantins Justice Tribunal approved the repossession and expelled the owner and his family.
The eviction of Juarez, his wife, their children and 23 grandchildren occurred in April 2003, with no warning. Juarez was unable to collect his animals, chickens and pigs, or harvest the food he produced such as manioc and rice. Everything had to be left.
The family headed for the farm belonging to one of Juarez's sons on the outskirts of Campos Lindos, where they live to this day. Juarez's son-in-law, Rui Denilton de Abreu, points out something little mentioned in the press. He states that there was a suspicious fire on the premises a few days after the family moved into the house. “This was intentional. To my mind, this was an attack on the family. In fact the accident report says this, that the fire was set from above and from outside. Was this an accident?” he asks.
More than seven years have passed and around twenty family members now share just two rooms of a thatched house. Their meals remain irregular. Nonetheless, according to Juarez the period immediately following the expulsion was when he worried most about food. “I lay awake all night, worrying, thinking: 'will I have to beg for food around the houses, when I have always lived on a full belly?
Will I see my family like this today because of a senator?” he remembers.
“This has been going on for six years, and I am now 61. I am afraid of dying and leaving my family with this problem. If she were in front of me right now, I would ask her, first of all, if she has children, if she would like to see a child of hers suffer like she is making my family suffer. If it felt good for her,” he says angrily.
But even if Kátia is not in front of Juarez right now, he is confronting her. And unlike the landowners who were expelled to the Cerrado reserves, this farmer has decided to fight for his rights and for the land where he has always lived. He holds documents for the property dating back to 1958.
The trial is now underway at the District Court in Goiatins.
Five months ago, Juarez went to the Chamber of Deputies' Human Rights Commission and managed to force the Justice Tribunal at Tocantins to accept the prescription action of 2000 as well as the preliminary order filed six years ago in order to guarantee the family's return.
Meanwhile, the President of the Chamber of Deputies' Human Rights Commission, Luis Couto (PT-PB), sent a letter to the National Justice Council denouncing the influence of Kátia Abreu on the Tocantins Court and expediting the small farmer's legal proceedings.
In a statement, Kátia affirms that she is the legal proprietor of the land in the municipality of Campos Lindos. She claims that she has “had calm and peaceful ownership of that land since its acquisition” and that Juarez Reis is “stubbornly invading someone else's land”.
A miserable model of development
One of the biggest soya producers, Campos Lindos is also one of the poorest cities in the country.
by Eduardo Sales de Lima of the Editorial Staff
The municipality of Campos Lindos, in the north of Tocantins, is the main exporter of soya in the state. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the production of soybeans in the city rose from 9.3 tons in 1999 to 127.4 in 2007. The Campos Lindos Agricultural Project, established in 1999, is largely responsible for this. .
The IBGE, however, also reveals the disastrous side of this development model. According to the Institute, which has collated data from the 2002-2003 Family Budget Survey (POF) with the 2000 Census, 84% of the city's population live in poverty, of whom 62.4% live in extreme poverty. In other words, they do not receive the minimum daily calorie intake required to survive.
Worse yet, after a decade of a controversial process of public “titration” - through which dozens of families of small farmers were evicted – slave labour has even come to the municipality. According to Silvano Resende of the Araguia-Tocantins Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), this social chaos is the fault of the group led by Kátia Abreu, Siqueira Campos and other emblematic figures who are the political force behind this conservative, destructive model.
“We estimate that there are around 20,000 landless families who fit the profile for agrarian reform. The proof of this is that we have had, in the last few years, the highest number of people living in conditions analogous to slavery in the state of Tocantins,” he explains.
According to Resende, the local tribunal is one of the primary instruments in consolidating the poverty of the region. “From the district of Goiatins to Colinas, their decisions are abhorrent,” he stresses. He relates that in the municipality of Brasilândia, in Colinas district, there is a farm to which the proprietors reclaimed ownership over six years ago. According to Resende, former state Senator Eduardo Siqueira Campos, with the intimidating support of local gunmen and with his influence on the local tribunal, managed to repossess the land, expelling 45 families from the area.
To him, the current social and political situation of the state of Tocantins means that local social movements urgently need to “speak up and organise, in order to take advantage of this moment.”