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Secretary of CPT’s National Coordination Office.

11 July 2010

Violation of Rights and Violence Persist in the Countryside

Antonio Canuto

What can be concluded from this rapid journey through the last ten years is that the Brazilian State has always walked hand-in-hand with large landowners. It has always protected their interests and, at the same time, repressed workers who organize to defend their rights.

Ten years. The Social Network for Justice and Human Rights’ Report on Human Rights in Brazil has accompanied the ten years of the existence of that same Network. In the countryside, the agrarian structure, based on limitless ownership of the land, continues to generate violence against men and women who, with their sweat, make the earth be fruitful and generate life. In this commemoration we will turn our attention to the conflicts that have taken place over the last ten years, how the governments have behaved, and we will discover that new actors, with new approaches, have arisen in the scenario of the Brazilian countryside.

Amid the Conflicts

According to Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) data, in the first term of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC), from 1995 to1998, conflicts in the countryside doubled. They went from 550 in 1995 to 1,100 in 1998. It was in this period that the massacres occurred at Corumbiara (1995) and Eldorado de Carajás (1996). The massacres once again placed the subject of Agrarian Reform on the national agenda, and FHC then created the Ministry of Agrarian Development (MDA).

But the space given to Agrarian Reform dwindled in his second term. The budget was progressively reduced. Grassroots movements in the countryside kept up their protests and pressure. Occupation of Regional Police Headquarters and of the Ministry of Finance by the Landless Movement (MST), in 2000, lit up the red light, and the government came down with a package of repressive measures intended to contain the struggle.

On June 29, 2000, the government issued Provisional Measure No. 2,027-40, Paragraph 6, of which determined that “rural property that has been subject to dispossession or invasion caused by agrarian or land ownership conflict of a collective nature shall not be inspected in the two years following vacating of the property.” The measure was reissued in April 2001, under No. 2109, and in August 2001, under No. 2,183-56, with the addition of another paragraph that excluded from the Agrarian Reform Program anyone who had participated in an “invasion or dispossession of rural property or “who had participated in the invasion of a public building”.

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