Brazil: Two Articles on the Peasant Struggle in Rondônia

The following is a translation of two articles from Resitencia Componesa (Peasant Resistance) Newspaper concerning the struggle of poor peasants for land, specifically in the lands of the former Santa Elina farm, which was the site of the Battle of Corumbiara 25 years ago.

Rondônia: Camp Manoel Ribeiro Peasants and Surrounding Communities Face Military Police Intimidation

A Nova Democracia, September 16

We reproduce below a report through the Resistencia Camponesa (Peasant Resistance) Newspaper about police intimidation on Camp Manoel Ribeiro and its surroundings after the last lands of Santa Elina were taken, 25 years after the historic Battle of Corumbiara.

Entire families struggle for the sacred right to land, to work and live in. Photo: Resistencia Camponesa.

The families of Camp Manoel Ribeiro faced another attempt to intimidate from the police in the service of the latifundium, on September 6, in the interior of Rondônia. These peasants are fighting for the lands of the Nossa Senhora Aparecida latifundium, located in the municipality of Chupinguaia (about 675 km from Porto Velho, main city of Rondônia state), one of the last parts of the old Santa Elina farm, where the Heroic Peasant Resistance of Corumbiara took place.

On the afternoon of that Sunday, a helicopter from the Air Operation Nucleus (NOA) of the civil and military police made low flights over the camp. As the aircraft approached, equipped with what appeared to be large-caliber weapons, peasants fired fireworks to alert campers and supporters.

Instead of frightening families fighting for land, the overflight of the aircraft left everyone alert and ready to resist a possible eviction attempt. Organized and showing their combativeness, the peasants quickly covered their faces to prevent identification and harassment by police officers who usually use helicopters to identify territories and individuals before invasion operations.

Families also wielded red flags and shouted slogans in the face of attempted intimidation. On September 6, Camp Manoel Ribeiro completed three weeks of victorious resistance, and each day more and more people join in the struggle to conquer the last lands of the former Santa Elina Farm.

Military Police invades plots and houses, threatens and humiliates workers neighboring Camp Manoel Ribeiro

Days after the intimidation promoted by the military through a NOA helicopter, an unfair, cowardly and abusive operation by the Military Police (MP) used two vehicles and a helicopter to threaten neighboring peasants to Camp Manoel Ribeiro on the morning of September 11.

[The] Military police invaded properties and residences, threatened and tortured families. At the same time, an arbitrary blitz (“routine” operations searching for “suspicious” elements, sometimes “legitimate,” sometimes merely under the guise of looking for “drunk drivers,” “fugitives,” and so on) was carried out, stopping everyone who passed on the road near the entrance of Nossa Senhora Aparecida Farm, in the municipality of Chupinguaia.

This is a typical action of the Rondonia MP in defense of the latifundium thieves of public lands and in criminalizing all the peasants in the surroundings of the camps, in an attempt to isolate the peasants fighting for land.

In less than a week, two operations with use of police helicopters, under the Marcos José Rocha/PSL state (Rondonia) administration, were launched against Camp Manoel Ribeiro, Photo: Resistencia Camponesa.

Coming from the direction of Vilhena, the helicopter flew several times over Camp Manoel Ribeiro and then landed in a region that, according to reports, would be close to or at the headquarters of Nossa Senhora Aparecida farm itself. Then, the aircraft returned to the camp in shallow flights. At this moment, a family that takes care of one of the guardhouses of the neighboring Bela Manhã farm, curious about this unusual event in the region, filmed the approach of the helicopter with a cell phone.

In an attempt to curb any record of the illegal operation, military policemen came in two vehicles and jumped over the fence, pointed firearms at the worker’s head, forced him to his knees and broke into the family residence. The policemen insistently asked the location of the entrance to Camp Manoel Ribeiro and about the leaders, even after the worker explained that he is a farm worker and that he does not know any information about the camp. All this truculence was committed in the presence of the victim’s wife and two small children of the father of the family. The military also photographed everyone without permission.

Proceeding with their illegal operation, the vehicles moved to the plot of a peasant neighbor to Camp Manoel Ribeiro. Four policemen broke into the property without permission and pointed assault weapons at the whole family. The workers lived moments of terror and had their lives put at serious risk because, due to the helicopter’s shallow flight and the noises produced, they could not hear the policemen pointing the guns aggressively, even at the children.

The policemen forced everyone to take their hands to their heads, made threats, asked if they knew information about the occupation and the leaders, searched and photographed the family, as well as the license plates of the vehicles that were in the residence. Among those who witnessed the illegal action was a child only 7 years old and a young man, also a minor, who had a gun pointed in his direction. One of the agents even threatened the youth saying that he would shoot him if he did not obey the orders. A hunting rifle found on the property was taken by the forces of repression, a common weapon among peasants for their defense and food.

Reports also show that all arbitrary action by the police was accompanied by the helicopter. The invasions and threats against the working families, besides being truculent and cowardly, were committed without the presentation of any judicial warrant, which points to the illegal nature of the operation.

Several peasants in the region also denounced that in recent weeks the Nossa Senhora Aparecida farm hired gunmen, four of whom were military police. This is a common practice of the police, see Corumbiara’s Heroic Peasant Resistance, which took place in these same lands that belonged to the former Santa Elina farm, when the MP lent uniforms to gunmen and committed all sorts of terrorist acts against surrendered peasants. It is not too much to remember that these crimes have gone and go unpunished, and that the current security secretary of Rondonia, José Hélio Cysneiro Pachá, was one of the officers responsible for the heinous crimes committed against the peasants, including women and children. 

The operation was clearly intended to intimidate the neighbors in order to reduce the support given to the peasants fighting for land and, with this, isolate Camp Manoel Ribeiro. But what could be seen in the region was that the arbitrary action of the police further increased the popular revolt. Indignated, the residents report that they were never even bothered by the peasants of Camp Manoel Ribeiro. But they cannot say the same about the police.

This is already the third time that police officers have gone to the area of the occupied farm, and the second time they have made incursions into the area with the use of helicopters, indicating that they are preparing for future major attacks. So far, no eviction orders have been issued to the families settled in Manoel Ribeiro.

Police raid in the vicinity of Camp Manoel Ribeiro

The police raid that intercepted vehicles near the headquarters of Nossa Senhora far, on the morning of September 11th counted on the use of three police trucks and also showed clear signs of abuse. Motorcycles and vans were stopped, the drivers were forced to put their hands on their heads as if they were criminals, were searched and photographed, as well as their documents and vehicle plates. A peasant reported that he was detained for approximately one hour at the blitz and was repeatedly asked if he had any relation or knew information about Camp Manoel Ribeiro.

RO: Organization and collective work boost Camp Manoel Ribeiro and new families arrive daily

We reproduce below compiled from news published in the Resistência Camponesa newspaper about the advancement of the organization and collective work at Camp Manoel Ribeiro and the arrival of new peasants.

Through collective work, peasants erect a shed for a popular assembly at Camp Manoel Ribeiro. Photo: Resistencia Camponesa

The peasants of Camp Manoel Ribeiro, led by the League of Poor Peasants (LCP) of Rondônia and the Western Amazon, have collectively organized the struggle, jobs and life in the land occupation since the beginning of the seizure of the lands of the Nossa Senhora Aparecida latifundium in the municipality from Chupinguaia.

Through the People’s Assemblies, work commissions, and family groups, the workers collectively decide from the distribution of jobs and responsibilities to the rules of operation of the camp and the directions that the occupation will take.

Peasants make decisions in discussions with the participation of all in the popular assembly. Photo: Resistencia Camponesa

Based on the principle of “Supporting oneself,” peasants manage and execute all collective life in the camp: they build wells for water supply, canvas shacks for housing, collective kitchens to feed families, bathrooms, fences for families, protection of the camp, care for collective health and prevention against Covid-19, education and care of children, political training etc.

United and organized, the peasants have won important victories in the fight against the use of alcohol and drugs in the camp through intense collective discussion and the prohibition of their consumption in and around the outlet.

For the prevention of Covid-19, the Sanitary Committee for Popular Defense was created, which holds meetings with each family group for clarification, distributes masks and hand sanitizer, and monitors the health of families, frequently measuring the temperature and blood oxygen levels of people who have any symptoms. Also to prevent the transmission of the virus, the peasants decided to set up and divide the collective kitchens into groups of approximately ten peasants, which reduces the concentration of people during meals.

The cleanliness of the collective areas of the camp is also everyone’s concern. Family groups are instructed to dispose of garbage in a collective pit. Often, cleaning efforts are established that pass through the camp, collecting packaging and other materials that have been improperly discarded.

Politicization has also been carried out with all groups of peasants. Studies are made of the LCP booklets and documents and the struggle for the application of political and organizational principles. Thus, the peasants of the Manoel Ribeiro Camp are increasingly following the path of the Agrarian Revolution, the only one that can guarantee peasants the sacred right to land, and which, with its continuation, can lead to the achievement of a more just society.

MANOEL RIBEIRO CAMP GROWS WITH THE ARRIVAL OF NEW FAMILIES EVERY DAY AND PANDEMIC PREVENTION

With more than three weeks of occupation of the Nossa Senhora Aparecida estate, the Manoel Ribeiro Camp has received, every day, more and more families in search of work and housing. All of them have been guided on preventive measures against the new coronavirus through the action of the Sanitary Committee for Popular Defense, formed by the peasants of the occupation.

Strips extended next to the entrance to Camp Manoel Ribeiro. Photo: Resistencia Camponesa

The camp, located in Chupinguaia, Southern Cone of Rondônia, was built on one of the last parts of the lands of the old Fazenda Santa Elina and already has the presence of peasants even from distant regions like Goiânia and Cuiabá, in addition to people from practically all neighboring municipalities.

The arrival of new families reinforces the collective struggle and organization of the camp every day. Based on the principle that “with solidarity and cooperation the people can solve their health problems,” the peasants have successfully guaranteed the work of prevention against the transmission of Covid-19 within the lands taken.

Peasants have organized and implemented concrete measures to prevent the pandemic in the camp. Photo: Resistencia Camponesa

The great demand on the part of the families that want to camp and conquer their piece of land to live, plant and give dignified living conditions to their children created the need for the placement of signs and indications to facilitate the location of the camp.

Through the work organized by the peasants, flags, banners, and signs were made and affixed [to fenceposts].

As a result, more than 1 km away, dozens of red flags can be seen flying along the MC01 line, a dirt road that gives access to the occupation. All of them with the acronym LCP written in yellow indicate the way toward the retaken land organized by the League of Poor Peasants of Rondônia and Western Amazon.

Coming closer to the line, signs, also red, with large yellow letters indicate with arrows the direction of the entrance to the Camp Manoel Ribeiro.

Signs and flags indicate access to Camp Manoel Ribeiro for peasants who arrive daily. Photo: Resistencia Camponesa

Already near the gate of the camp, two large banners erected on the neighboring plot of a supporting peasant receive everyone with the consignments: All the lands of the old Fazenda Santa Elina now belong to the people! and 25 years old: Long live the Heroic Resistance of the Peasant Corumbiara!

As the number of campers increases, so does the solidarity of the peasants living in the neighboring Revolutionary Areas, who have donated part of their production to help families struggling for land.

These residents, who won their right to land ten years ago by taking over most of the farm where the Heroic Peasant Resistance of Corumbiara took place, today help other peasants to conquer them as well as the right to work and housing, taking the rest of the land from old Santa Elina farm. Donations of milk, cassava, yams, green beans etc. arrive at Camp Manoel Ribeiro daily.

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