Brazil: Updates on the Peasant Struggle in Rondônia

The following is an unofficial translation of a statement from the National Commission of the League of Poor Peasants on recent updates from Camp Manoel Ribeiro, as well as an article from the democratic Brazilian newspaper A Nova Democracia on escalating repression against Camp Tiago dos Santos.


Faced with Resistance from and Solidarity with Camp Manoel Ribeiro, the Rondônia Government Is Forced to Retreat

On April 12, the unjust judicial decision of repossession against the families of Camp Manoel Ribeiro was suspended indefinitely.

Camp Manoel Ribeiro is formed by families that since August 2020 have returned to the Nossa Senhora Aparecida (NSA) farm, in the municipality of Chupinguaia, near the municipality of Corumbiara. This farm is the last part of the old Santa Elina Farm that in 1995 was the scene of the heroic peasant resistance, in what became known as the “Corumbiara massacre.” It is important to note, the NSA farm is neither “attached” nor “neighboring”: it is Santa Elina itself, making up the remaining lands from which so much peasant and indigenous blood was spilled. Hélio Pereira, who claimed to be the owner of the former Santa Elina, after the events of 1995, dismembered it into three large estates, Água Viva, Maranata, and the current NSA, which came to be designated as an area of ​​interest for “agrarian reform” in past governments. But due to political interests and pressure from landowners, the NSA’s part was left out of the cut made by INCRA (National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform) at the time. But now its possession is being disputed by the poor peasants who have taken it back, and the cutting and handing over of their land to the poor peasants is part of the historic settlement of the blood debt owed to the people by the latifundium (the large landlords), the Old State, and its governments on duty.

Since the end of March, in response to the pressure from the land-thieving landowners of the Union, the governor of Rondônia, MP (military police) Colonel Marcos Rocha, prepared a new massacre of peasants, as in 1995, in these same lands. He ordered that the families of Camp Manoel Ribeiro had to be evicted, and arrested at any cost, and appointed to command this criminal enterprise none other than the butcher of Santa Elina, his security secretary, José Hélio Cysneiros Pachá, who has already had his hands stained with blood since 1995, when he served as a commander in the torture and killing that took place in August of that year.

Since then, the Rondônia government has spent a lot of money to mobilize a real war apparatus against peasant families and has committed all sorts of crimes and illegalities. Even before there was any court order, he sent troops and police apparatus to surround and attack the families of Camp Manoel Ribeiro. For two whole weeks, they kept their families surrounded by troops and military police vehicles, flying over with helicopters and launching attacks on the camp daily and around the clock, in the morning, afternoon, evening, and even during the night. They made several attempts to invade the camp with riot troops, firing with rubber bullets, bombs, pepper gas, and even shots of live ammunition. But every time they entered the area, they were driven back by the resistance of the peasants.

In addition to attacking Camp Manoel Ribeiro, having arrested and beaten two campers, who are still illegally detained to this day, all surrounding peasant areas have been affected by criminal police action in favor of landowners and against residents of the region. The roads were besieged, blocking the right to move freely, and residents who passed were approached and subjected to humiliating searches, interrogations, and intimidation and threats. In these approaches they illegally demanded phone passwords in violation of people’s privacy. In an absurd way, in the worst moment of the pandemic, in addition to doing everything to carry out an eviction, they suspended the operations of the public health service in the region, including vaccinations against the coronavirus, which were also suspended.

On several occasions, police invaded the properties of neighboring peasants and near the area, even cutting fences and causing other damage. There are also many reports of beatings to get people to give names of people to accuse of being camp leaders. And at least two peasants were arbitrarily arrested in these circumstances.

And all this for what? To defend a handful of the wealthy (a tiny minority of the population), the landowner thieves of the Union. And landowners proven to be bandits, as is the case of those who claim to be owners of the NSA who, in addition to inheriting the blood debt in which these lands are soaked, were caught in the act using an armed band of gunmen including several policemen from Chupinguaia to attack the families of Camp Manoel Ribeiro. The situation was so blatant that, due to the action of the Public Ministry, they had to arrest these gunmen and other raccoons (as the gunmen in Rondônia are known) who were hired (for R$900 per day, roughly $165) by the landowner who claims to be the owner of the NSA, Toninho Miséria.

But that has been the role of the Old State, its governments on duty, and its police, to comply with its motto of “serving and protecting,” but not the interests of everyone, as they want to believe, but serving and protecting the interests of the rich, of the big owners. There are plenty of examples to prove this, but in addition to the absurd police action around Manoel Ribeiro, we mention only two recent examples. First, the military police’s ongoing operations to evict the families that took possession of the area known as the Vilhena Farm, in favor of the landowner, the land thief of the Union, the bandit known as Nego Zen, who in the past has kidnapped, tortured, and kept in private prison at the headquarters of the farm peasant activists of the LCP, where only after several complaints did the police have to recover them, and later Nego Zen himself was arrested with several weapons alongside his gunmen who made up his armed band, but soon all of this was stifled. Another example is the recent protest by milk producers in the region of Vale do Anari, Theobroma, and Machadinho D’Oeste, who were protesting the drop in the price of milk, which suddenly changed from 1.80 to 1.20 ($0.33 to $0.22) per liter. Once more, the police acted against the people, and handed out clubs, rubber bullets, and pepper spray at will to the demonstrators’ faces.

To try to justify all the unjust and cowardly police operation in favor of the landowner thieves of the Union and against the families of Camp Manoel Ribeiro, they painted the peasants and the LCP as the worst of demons. They lie, slander, and attack in order to criminalize the struggle for land, in order to isolate the struggle and our organization, facilitate persecution, and repression against organized peasants. And in this task they rely on the lack of information from the garbage press in Rondônia, which is financed by the government and serves as a spokesman for it, and discloses what the police whisper in their ears.

And in the face of the failure of the government’s plans that in a short time intended to wipe out Camp Manoel Ribeiro, the lies and criminalization of the ongoing peasant struggle have risen enormously. In their own statements, they make it clear that they did not expect to meet with so much resistance from the peasants. And they try to claim that the families that are in Manoel Ribeiro are imprisoned there by the LCP, that they are evildoers, insane elements that are not there for land but for party interests and other lies.

The lackeys of the landowners with all their military apparatus, their rivers of money, their resources and technologies for repression, they use all this to defend an unjust cause, to defend the old, the backwardness, the exploitation, the privileges, this wound of our Nation called latifundio. While the resistance of the peasants represents the new, we defend a just cause, we fight for the interests of the majority, we fight for the most basic and sacred rights, to have a piece of land in order to live, work, and make a living with our families with dignity, and beyond that we fight for justice, for a new-democratic power and a new Brazil without exploitation or oppression, for our children and grandchildren. If in those days we were able to face and resist in an organized and victorious way the cowardly attacks of the police, it is not because we are crazy, but because we are convinced that we are fighting for what is just. This is the source of our fearlessness and combativeness.

Despite the judicial decision suspending repossession, the police remain in the region. And with renewed hatred, they continue to maintain arbitrary blitzes, approaching people left and right, humiliating, intimidating, threatening, and committing the most diverse illegalities. They continue to harass and harm the population of the region. Just like the military operation against Camp Manoel Ribeiro, the current presence of the police in the surroundings continues to be justified with the cynically named “peace in the countryside” operation.

Instead of spending the resources, collected with the taxes we paid, to fix the precarious roads and bridges in the region, which are essential for the flow of production (recently in the region a milk truck fell due to this problem), for health care and education in the areas, technical assistance, regularization of land documentation and other claims and interests, not of the big ones, but of the small and medium owners, of the traders and other workers, the government spends the public resource against the people and for the benefit of the thieving landowners of Union land.

In addition to maintaining an ostentatious police presence in the region, they are already making threats to bring the national force (the National Public Security Force). But we are not intimidated. We are even more firm. These lands, from the old Santa Elina Farm, are soaked with the blood of our peasant and indigenous brothers. We will not leave here. These lands belong to the people and we will fight for them until the end. As one of our slogans says, “Even if the thing thickens, this land is ours!”

Long live the resistance of the peasants of Camp Manoel Ribeiro!

Defend the possession of land in the Manoel Ribeiro area by peasants!

The lands of ancient Santa Elina belong to the people!

Down with the criminalization of the struggle for land!

Conquer the land, destroy the latifundium!

Land for those who work on it!

Long live the Agrarian Revolution, death to the landowners!

National Commission of the League of Poor Peasants

LCP – League of Poor Peasants of Rondônia and Western Amazon

April 15, 2021


Brazil: Peasant from Tiago dos Santos Camp Is Murdered by Gunmen

On April 15, a peasant from the Tiago dos Santos area named Jerlei was murdered by gunmen at the behest of the latifundium on Line 29 in front of the Zezin Marafaia farm, in Nova Mutum-Paraná, Rondônia.

The cowardly murder occurred at about 3 p.m. when the peasant was on his motorbike on Line 29, on his way to União Bandeirantes, and was intercepted by a white L200 Triton truck and an orange Lander motorcycle. After the approach, the gunmen fired several pistol shots, 40 caliber, at the head of the worker when he was already on his knees. The killers also stole Jerlei’s cell phone and motorcycle.

According to a complaint made by the peasants’ commission in the area, the crime occurred at the behest of the landowner Santa Carmen and Boi Sossego.

Peasants also claim in the midst of the complaint that Jerlei lived his whole life as a peasant, was a worker, and lived off the sweat of his work. The peasant leaves behind his wife, children, and many companions who loved him.

“The death of Comrade Jerlei will not be forgotten. He will be remembered by his relatives and comrades in the fight. The spilled blood of Comrade Jerlei will not be in vain. Whoever killed him will pay,” declare the peasants.

The Tiago dos Santos area is marked in its history of existence by a great resistance. In October 2020, grileiro (someone who acquires land through forged documents and fraudulent lawsuits) Antônio Martins dos Santos (the “Old Rooster”) in collusion with the Old State attacked the area, where more than 2,400 peasants lived. On that occasion, they tortured peasants along the road, surrounded the camp, firing shots at whoever was on the path, prevented the entry of food and even milk for local children, flew helicopters over the region, throwing 380 caliber shells to try to incriminate the peasants, setting the stage for a peasant massacre. Finally, they carried out a violent eviction and arrested peasants and supporters. 

During the eviction, the masses vigorously raised LCP flags and proclaimed slogans against the latifundio. An international campaign was launched which prevented a tragic outcome. And in the same month, 300 families reoccupied the area and others continue to retake the land.

Recently, a new attack was made against peasants in the area, when police threatened and tortured workers in a “bolicho” (small shop) located on one of the roads that gives access to the area.

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