Editors’ Note: This article relies on important coverage of the struggle of the Brazilian peasants carried out by the democratic newspaper, A Nova Democracia: Grandiosa resistência: Como os camponeses retornaram à Área Tiago dos Santos
By Nélida Tello
On October 27, the hundreds of Brazilian peasants that were evicted from the Tiago Campin dos Santos and the Ademar Ferreira Settlements valiantly reoccupied their land and faced off with the reactionary armed forces who had evicted them a week prior. After taking back their land, the Brazilian peasants, organized by the League of Poor Peasants (LCP, Liga dos Camponeses Pobres), held a Popular Assembly where they reaffirmed their willingness to fight for their land.
Dozens of peasant families were evicted from the settlements by the Military Police despite the Federal Supreme Court suspending the eviction order and ordering the removal of police from the area. Marcos Rocha, the reactionary governor of the state of Rondonia in Brazil, defied the order by deploying 3,000 police officers, and continuing the military operation, referred to as‘Nova Mutum’, to evict the peasants. The two settlements, home to more than 700 peasant families, are located in Nova Mutum Parana, a district in the city of Porto Velho, Rondonia.
The peasant families were evicted by the reactionary Brazilian armed forces at gunpoint in the middle of the night of October 20, but they returned to the Tiago Campin dos Santos and Ademar Ferreira Settlements less than a week later. A caravan of motorcycles, cars, trucks, and buses left the makeshift housing they were forced to live in, driven by peasants determined to retake their land.
A solidarity mission organized by the Brazilian Association of People’s Lawyers (Abraspo, Associação Brasileira de Advogados do Povo Nacional) and the Brazilian Center for Solidarity to the People (Cebraspo, Centro Brasileiro de Solidariedade aos Povos) accompanied the convoy to monitor and support the return of the peasants.
The solidarity mission was composed of other organizations for the defense of the people, public defenders, and sympathizers. Reporters with A Nova Democracia, the Brazilian revolutionary and democratic news organization, also joined the peasants.
Upon arriving at the settlements, the peasants encountered an illegal military siege with 16 unidentified and armed officers guarding the entrance. Undeterred, the peasants organized resistance against the police and overcame attempts by the armed forces to intimidate and divide them.
The Military Police only allowed lawyers and Republic Attorney Raphael Bevilaqua, who accompanied the solidarity mission, into the settlement to discuss the situation. The Military Police called for reinforcements after seeing the peasants’ readiness to fight for their land.
After being denied entrance, the peasants chanted, “Land, Land, for those who work it! Long live the Agrarian Revolution! Now! Now!” They also broke into the LCP’s song, Conquer the Land.
During the meeting between the lawyers, Bevilaqua, and the police commander, the peasants continued to sing and chant. The peasants sang The Risk, a revolutionary song, and chanted, “Even if the thing thickens this land is ours! Conquer the land! Destroy the latifundium! Go into combat without fear! Dare to struggle, dare to win!” They sang with such valor and ardor that the commander of the military operation ordered an end to their singing. He went as far as to deploy a helicopter to intimidate the peasants, but they remained undeterred and mocked the attempt.
The Secretary of Security of the State, Hélio Cysneiros Pacha (known as the butcher of Santa Elina for massacring peasants in the battle of Santa Elina in 1995), arrived at the settlement by helicopter to speak with the commander. His visit did little to undermine the peasant resistance.
After the meeting, the peasants held a Popular Assembly and decided to stay the night and enter in the morning. Songs ensued with some peasants setting off fires.
Other peasants from the region donated an ox so the resisting peasants could eat after going hours without food. The peasants organized and prepared a communal meal with the donated ox. The police attempted to intimidate the peasants throughout the night by disturbing their sleep.
Note: All photos from A Nova Democracia
More police reinforcements arrived on the morning of October 27. Peasants told A Nova Democracia that temperatures reached 104 degrees at the settlement, many were dehydrated and sick, and police refused to provide water. After an entire day of resisting the police, the families successfully entered the land that afternoon. The police frisked the peasants and children, collected personal information, and searched all personal belongings.
When asked about the police searching the families, one peasant told A Nova Democracia, “This here is a humiliation for the working people. […] People getting sick, pregnant women, children, no water, no food. The rulers of the State should be ashamed, it is shamelessness in the face of the rulers of the State. We have entered this land and we are not going to leave! Our motto is to occupy, resist and produce! The land is ours, for those who live and work in it!”
A day after reoccupying the land, the peasants held a second Popular Assembly and declared that they would prepare for future battles in defense of their land, and also asserted that they had conquered their lands. The following day, police officers from the Special Operations Battalion retaliated by killing two peasants, Gedeon José Duque and Rafael Gasparini Tedesco, both militants of the LCP. Seven peasants from the Tiago Campin dos Santos and the Ademar Ferreira Settlements have been killed in the last two months by the reactionary Brazilian armed forces.
The Brazilian reactionary armed forces target the LCP because it organizes the poor peasants in the Brazilian countryside against the exploitation of large landlords. Under the leadership of the LCP, landless peasants seize land and make it productive to support themselves and their community. The LCP represents a threat to the old Brazilian state and this is why the armed forces, who share the same class interest as the old state, aim to kill LCP leaders and militants.
The Military Police have continued with the illegal military operation ‘Nova Mutum’ since the peasants reoccupied their land. On October 30, the police attacked the Tiago dos Santos Settlement to prevent the peasants from rebuilding their homes and created an arbitrary boundary between the settlement and the Santa Carmen Farm. The police interrupted a peasant meeting stating the incursions into the settlement would not stop. They also threatened to seize cars on the property. Despite the constant police attacks and torture, the peasants continue to organize in defense of the right to land.
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