Bipartisan Congressional Committee of Inquiry on Land Issues (CPMI) – A declaration of rejection

TERRA DE DEREITOS, a civic human rights organization, declares publicly its rejection of the Report approved by the CPMI on Land Issues on 29 November 2005.

The CPMI on Land Issues was constituted with the aim of carrying out a broad diagnostic evaluation of the Brazilian agrarian structure, of the agrarian and urban reform processes, as well as of the campaigns of both the civic workers’ and landowners’ movements. Its mandate was to determine what was not working, and identify the path(s) to a solution. However, in rejecting the opinion submitted by the legitimate Speaker for the Commission, Representative João Alfredo, and in approving separately the findings of Representative Abelardo Lupion, the majority of the members of the CPMI came down on the side of criminalizing land rights movements, particularly the MST.

It is unacceptable that, after two years of research, fact-finding visits to nine different states, 125 interviews, inspection of 75 thousand pages of documents, the lifting of the veil of secrecy from 21 individual and legal entities, and analysis of dozens of accords entered into by the Federal Government with both worker and landowner bodies, the Report released by the CPMI would conclude that the problem of Brazilian rural areas is related primarily to the distribution of resources to entities connected with land rights workers.

The conclusion of the approved Report is completely silent as far as the violence in rural areas in concerned, and ignores both the murder of rural workers and the illegal expropriation of public lands. It makes no mention of forced labor or the militias formed by plantation owners. The text is so reactionary that it goes so far as to recommend the passage of two pending pieces of legislation that would characterize as heinous crimes and terrorist acts the actions of those who occupy land in order to pressure the government to act on agrarian reform.

The CPMI visited the state of Paraná and held a public hearing in Curitiba, at which the topic of the formation of private militias was widely debated. Representative Lupion’s report, however, does not dedicate even a single line to the matter. It does not mention operation Março Branco, which broke up a gang operating in rural areas and sent Lt. Colonel Copetti Neves to prison after demonstrating his involvement in the professional persecution of land rights movements in Paraná state. Neither does the report describe another operation carried out by Federal Police, called Peace for Rural Areas, during the course of which eight ranchers were captured red-handed and nine investigations were conducted that resulted in the indictment of 17 individuals on charges of illegal arms trafficking and gang activity. Among those charged were Humberto Mano Sá and Cristiano de Jesus Guilarde Claser. It is important to remember that rancher Humberto Mano Sá, known for working to create the First Rural Command, is currently the ‘director of territorial activity’ for the national RDU (Rural Democratic Union, a landowners’ organization), while Cristiano de Jesus Guilarde Claser, for his part, is a member of its governing council.

The Report also does not address police brutality in clearance operations, or the countless deaths that have occurred in rural land conflicts across the state. Betraying its bias, the Report, in the few lines devoted to Paraná state, does nothing more than criticize the settlement that is being established on Araupel Ranch.

In recommending that the public prosecution service go forward with legal proceedings against leaders of the ANCA (Portuguese initials of the National Agricultural Cooperation Association) and ConCRAB (Confederation of Agrarian Reform Cooperatives of Brazil), the document reveals its partiality and inclination toward criminalizing defenders of human rights that are looking to improve living conditions for the men and women living in workers’ camps and settlements.

The authoritarian and prejudiced conviction found in the winning report is a disgrace to the Brazilian National Congress. The document criminalizes victims, hinders agrarian reform, and rewards those who attack the Federal Constitution, particularly those sections that regulate and protect the right to life and the social role of property.

The report that was defeated - that of Representative João Alfredo - presents a realistic analysis of the agrarian structure, notes the causes of the violence in the countryside, and holds up agrarian reform as a solution to the problem. In rejecting it, and in approving a text which is in itself a manifesto of the hate felt by rural landowners for landless workers, the CPMI on Land Issues has ceased to fulfil its constitutional responsibilities, becoming instead yet another impediment in the path to realizing agrarian reform and social justice in the Brazilian countryside.

Terra de Dereitos
tel.: (41) 3232-4660
Darci Frigo, coordinator, cel.: (41) 9987-4660

In Portuguese -
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