Dear Friends of the MST,
We are writing to update you on the situation in Brazil regarding Syngenta, and to tell you about the next steps in the struggle to punish the transnational for its crimes. As you know, the most recent occupation of a site owned by Syngenta, carried out on October 21st, 2007, was met with extreme violence on the part of NF Security company, which Syngenta had contracted to guard its property. During the altercation, activist Valmir Mota de Oliveira (“Keno”) was killed and several people were seriously injured. A security guard was also shot to death by other guards. Despite evidence to the contrary, the prosecutor's office has pressed baseless yet serious charges against several of the MST/Via Campesina activists who were victims of the Syngenta-sponsored attacks.
The prosecutors’ office asserts that the activists are responsible for the October 21st deaths and injuries because, by participating in the land occupation, they assumed the risk that their activities would cause violence. The prosecutors even went so far as to request preventative prison terms for two MST/Via Campesina leaders in order to “maintain public order.” Luckily, the judge denied the preventative prison request, but charges are still being pressed against the leaders and other activists. Also, the gunmen who were being held in prison were released.
We are also extremely concerned about aspects of the police report which were ignored by the prosecutors, which increases the likelihood that the instigators of the crimes will go unpunished. Although the police report uncovered evidence which would allow for the indictment of Alessandro Meneghel, president of the Rural Society of Western Paraná (a landowner militia group with ties to Syngenta), the prosecutors’ office did not charge him with any crimes associated with the October 21st violence. Additionally, the police report noted that some of the gunmen had fled in a car belonging to Syngenta, and that it was a well-known fact in the area that the company used armed guards to protect its property. Additionally, at a hearing in late December, the owner of NF Security testified that Syngenta had not terminated its contract with him. In spite of all these facts, the prosecutors failed to even mention Syngenta in their indictment.
It is essential to continue our pressure onto Syngenta to disband the armed militias that they sponsor, and to ensure the punishment of those responsible for the aforementioned crimes. We are asking all friends and allies to send letters to the Syngenta headquarters in the United States, with a copy to the Swiss Embassy in Washington, DC. **SEE DRAFT LETTER BELOW**
Your action is crucial to ensure an end to injustice and impunity in Brazil’s countryside. Please ACT NOW!