The following is an unofficial translation of a joint statement from the Brazilian Center for Solidarity with the People (CEBRASPO) and Brazilian People’s Lawyers Association Gabriel Pimenta (ABRAPO) on the state repression of Tiago dos Santos Camp.
By CEBRASPO and ABRAPO
On October 10, 2020, in the State of Rondônia, about 300 police officers from the Military Police, National Force, Tactical Force, and other repressive forces carried out an illegal and criminal eviction of 600 families organized by the League of Poor Peasants (LCP) at Camp Tiago dos Santos. The Tiago dos Santos Camp, located in the NorBrasil and Arco-Iris farms in União Bandeirantes, Porto Velho (RO), is part of a large latifundium (vast parcel of land) of more than 57 thousand hectares, whose supposed owner would be the company Leme Empreendimentos Ltda, owned by by Antônio Martins (Galo Velho), a well-known and criminal grileiro (someone who acquires land through forged documents and fraudulent lawsuits) of public lands.
In a cowardly and disproportionate action against families, including hundreds of children, they were attacked with tear gas bombs, pepper sprays, etc. A real war operation was set up by invading the camp and even using helicopters. The operation started at 9 am. The peasants reported that they were threatened, psychologically tortured with death threats. They placed men and women sitting in the central part of the camp and threatened that if they did not surrender the leaders they would die. They searched all the shacks, took money, documents, work tools, cell phones, etc. At noon three bailiffs arrived. They asked [the peasants] to line up and said they could take only a small volume of their belongings, that which they could carry in their hands. Showing a video of Bolsonaro, the police said that “the president authorized to kill all the landless.” They humiliated and threatened everyone. They asked everyone to remove their masks, put men, women, and children like cattle on top of cargo trucks, pickup trucks (personal), and buses, and inhumanly dumped them in the middle of the street in a nearby village called Vila Penha. While driving, they passed in front of the farm’s headquarters, where there were two helicopters, many police cars, and celebrations (they were celebrating the eviction). The officers did not use identification during the action. They destroyed the entire collective kitchen, knocked over the shacks onto the peasants’ belongings, being allowed only to carry a small bag in their hands. Peasants ALSO REPORT PHYSICAL AGGRESSIONS AND DISAPPEARANCE OF VARIOUS PEOPLE. There are reports of peasant arrests in nearby cities a few hours after the eviction. A real hunt for poor peasants who only claim the right to Union (the body that authorizes the occupation of federal public properties) land to provide sustenance for their families.
The illegal repossession operation tore the veil of the “Democratic rule of Law” and exposed the real face of the Brazilian State, the advance of the Police State and the attack on the constitutional rights of the People.
Cowardly and Illegal Attack
The cowardly eviction occurred on the morning of October 10, in the middle of Saturday. The preliminary injunction was granted on Friday at 5:45 pm on October 9, at the end of the day, for compliance during the weekend. This precluded any chance of defense by the peasants. The electronic records referring to the possessory action contained only the following move: “AWARD OF INJUNCTION,” dated October 9, 2020, without the attached document. A serious issue, above all, in a process of relevant social magnitude where the principle of transparency should be the goal, given the public interest.
The lawsuit is pending before the 7th Civil Court of Porto Velho, possessory action against the families, the action number 7030469-20.2020.8.22.0001, filed by LEME EMPREENDIMENTOS E PARTICIPACOES LTDA – ME against landless peasants. The legal team involved in the process was essentially prevented from demonstrating how absurd and arbitrary the eviction of these families would be, since, as explained above, the time between the granting of the injunction and the execution of the eviction order was overnight between Friday and Saturday! There is also no news of the intervention of the Public Defender in demand that should act as custos vulnerabilis (a legal principle that public defenders should act in the interests of the vulnerable). The camp’s peasants were never quoted or summoned about this possessory action, did not even know of its existence, however the right to contradictory and broad [legal] defense was not an obstacle for the court to determine the repossession of the hundreds of families that were there. In less than 12 hours the guard dogs were ready to carry out the eviction.
The injunction itself is arbitrary in the sense that the process is full of defects that violate fundamental constitutional and procedural principles of the Brazilian legal system, namely, the right to due process, contradictory and broad defense. Such an eviction order, besides being illegal, is a true legal farce, since it was only given after the beginning of the enforcement of forced reintegration, revealing that it had the sole objective of giving “legality” to the criminal act already brought by the State. The Military Police had been in the area since before the publication of the warrant surrounding the camp.
There is a connivance between the State and land grabber Galo Velho, who set up the killings of police to enable the repossession of his illegal possession. This grileiro is imprisoned for being part of a criminal organization that also involves members of the Judiciary, specialized in this profitable occupation of taking public lands and expelling people who live on the land. Such public land should therefore be used for the national Agrarian Reform program.
The eviction of these families was absurd and illegal because it was clearly a disproportionate action by the State against rural workers in social vulnerability, especially in this moment of crisis and pandemic. This decision contradicted the government’s recommendations for social isolation to face the Covid-19 pandemic. Masks were prevented from being used and people were crowded in the middle of the street in a small village.
Military Police, Brown Press, and Rondônia Government Tried to Organize a Massacre Against the Peasants
A real setup perpetrated by the PM, government of Rondônia, and in collusion with the “brown” press (comparable to ‘yellow journalism’ in the US—sensational news media without regard for the truth), tried to associate the murder of two policemen, which occurred in the municipality on October 2 and 3, with the peasants. Such a defamatory campaign was intended to create public opinion in favor of a massacre against peasants and to criminalize the League of Poor Peasants (LCP). In addition to the Tiago dos Santos Camp being a long way from the murder site, the League of Poor Peasants in their public notes belied the farce point by point. As their modus operandi, the police criminalized the residents of the camp and established a criminal siege since the 3rd of October of the area preventing the entry of food, shooting at motorcycles that tried to bring milk to the children, whom spent a week without milk drinking rice water. Shortly after the murders, the landlord’s lawyer filed an eviction suit showing the clear intention to seize the opportunity to get rid of those workers.
Since October 3, the State has been using all kinds of illegalities, abuses, and violations of rights. Using the brown press, they reported that a “secret” operation was underway with several issued arrest warrants, but in truth, what was observed was the use of these “secret warrants” to practice all kinds of blackmail, illegality, and threats to peasants. Thus, as the repossession injunction that came to try to give “legality” to the repossession of illegal possession already carried out by the Military Police, the “secret warrants” served as a pretext for the State to violate constitutional rights and guarantees, in particular the Right of Defense! The “secret warrants” were the authorization and legal framework for the police to practice their illegalities and the certainty that all abuses and illegalities would be “circumvented” and later “legalized.”
Where are crimes investigated by illegally removing people from the land they live in and which is in dispute? In Rondônia, certainly, due to precedents for the clear connection of landowners, land grabbers, police, and judges.
Defending the Fight of the Peasant Movement Is the Duty of All True Democrats, Progressives, and People’s Rights Defenders!
“If the countryside doesn’t plant, the city won’t eat”
The mobilization made by CEBRASPO, ABRAPO, and other entities and activists defending the rights of the people was very important to prevent a massacre similar to what happened, for example, in Corumbiara in 1995.
Such crimes and arbitrariness require all Democrats to take a firm stand. This collusion between the latifundium and the state organs has to end. Land has a social function and public land must be allocated to the peasants who live and work on it.
It is unacceptable that in a country where there are 14 million unemployed and that the government had to provide emergency aid to 63.5 million people so that they do not go hungry, because of the COVID-19 epidemic, the state agencies in Rondônia become jagunços (hired gunmen) paid by land grabbers of public lands and prevent 600 families (about 2,000 people) from making a living from a small piece of land.
DOWN WITH THE CRIMINALIZATION OF THE PEASANT MOVEMENT!
JUSTICE FOR THE PEASANTS OF THE TIAGO DOS SANTOS CAMP IN UNION BANDEIRANTES – RONDÔNIA!
LAND FOR THOSE WHO LIVE AND WORK IN IT!
BRAZILIAN CENTER FOR SOLIDARITY TO PEOPLE – CEBRASPO
BRAZILIAN PEOPLE’S LAWYERS ASSOCIATION GABRIEL PIMENTA – ABRAPO
Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, October 11, 2020.