Brazilian government foments violence in the countryside by ignoring the causes, says lawyer

Monday, July 31, 2017
Info Source: 
Lilian Campelo Belém (PA)

The wave of violence against landless and traditional communities was intensified under the government of Michel Temer (PMDB)

"I would say that the main cause of violence is not even faced by the state," says Marco Apolo Santana Leão, a lawyer who works in popular movements and organizations such as the Paraense Society in Defense of Human Rights (SDDH-PA), Landless Workers Movement (MST) and Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), on the deaths in the countryside in the state of Pará.

In only the first half of this year did Pará register 22 people murdered by conflicts in the countryside. In the last week of July, the statistic plus the couple Manoel Índio Arruda and Maria da Luz Fernandes da Silva, died at home in the Uxi settlement in Itupiranga.

The state has for years occupied a position - not honorable - in the ranking of deaths of leaders and landless farmers caused in the context of land conflicts. Leão maintains that the causes are not investigated by the Brazilian State. On the contrary, permanence is encouraged, and in the current government of Michel Temer (PMDB), conflicts have intensified.

"There are no public policies capable of addressing these issues; on the contrary, the Brazilian State has made potential conflicts as it encourages the causes, such as the emptying of agrarian reform policy, INCRA's (National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform) depletion, lack of resources and the incentives to agribusiness. What the state is doing is encouraging the conflict as it supports those who are in favor of the conflict," he says.

According to data from the Federation of Agricultural Workers (Fetagri-PA), the number of deaths caused by conflicts in the countryside this year increased by 366.7% compared to 2016. The data were computed from the accounting by the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT).

The president of the Brazilian Association of Agrarian Reform (Abra), Gerson Teixeira, also shares the same argument. He says that after the coup against President Dilma Rousseff (PT) and, therefore, the dismantling of instruments that put tensions in the countryside, fomented violence in rural areas because it signaled to the most radical ruralists that there would be no limits to their actions: "Felt free," says Teixeira.

"First you have the complete stoppage of agrarian reform, the settlements were a way of intervening in the situation of social tension. This ceases to exist, and in addition, everything in the Congress is trying to annul all the acts that Dilma has expedited for expropriation of agrarian reform, demarcation of indigenous and quilombola land. There are 21 bills of legislative decrees trying to invalidate the acts of Dilma in agrarian reform and another 20 taking indigenous and quilombola land," he adds.

Teixeira criticizes the Lula and Dilma government over agrarian policies. In both, according to him, there were "restrictions" due to the strong presence of the ruralist group, representatives of the interests of the agribusiness sector, but acknowledges that in both governments the "settlement policy" was not paralyzed. "But anyway it mitigated and had the counterpoint. In the case of violence, the government was very active, had instruments such as Incra [Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform], the Ombudsman, had the action of several instances of government that opposed violence.


Impunity in legal proceedings is another factor that contributes and strengthens so that more crimes in the field happen, according to the lawyer. Leão has advocated in many cases involving homicides of rural leaders. The last one was in relation to the prosecution assistance of the murder of the couple José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva, who died in 2011 in Nova Ipixuna, southeastern of Pará. The principal actor José Rodrigues Moreira was sentenced to 60 years in prison (double the 30 year maximum) for murder, but is outlawed by justice.

According to Leão, from 1980 to 2008 the SDDH counted 57 human rights defenders murdered in the state of Pará, some of these cases went to jury, and others were never solved. Leão quotes the case of Paulo Fonteles, a CPT lawyer murdered by two gunmen in 1987. The constituents were never identified by the investigation: "Generally punishable in these gunslingers and intermediaries, it is difficult for investigations to reach the true perpetrators, from whom these deaths are financed.".

According to CPT data, since 1985 there have been 1,387 murders in the countryside. Of these, only 112 cases were tried, with 31 constituents convicted and 14 acquitted. Of the executioners, only 92 were convicted.