The following is an unofficial translation of the article “RO: Camponeses furam cerco militar, se retiram e declaram: ‘Voltaremos mais fortes!” published in the Brazilian democratic and revolutionary newspaper A Nova Democracia.
By Taís Souza
Hundreds of peasant families from Camp Manoel Ribeiro (Chupinguaia, Rondonia, former Santa Elina Farm), who were under military siege and closely monitored by the intelligence service of several police and federal forces, achieved a feat: they broke through the siege at dawn, retreating and stopping the reactionary plan to massacre them. The peasants left a banner that said, “We will come back stronger and more prepared.” So declared the League of Poor Peasants (Liga dos Camponeses Pobres, LCP), which organizes the peasant families. The organized and planned withdrawal from the camp was unanimously decided by the People’s Assembly.
The camp was set up in August 2020 on the last remaining lands in the hands of the landowners of what was once the Santa Elina Farm (today Nossa Senhora da Aparecida), where in 1995 the Heroic Armed Peasant Resistance of Santa Elina took place.
The silent withdrawal of more than 200 peasant families certainly astonished the reactionaries, who yearned for a massacre. The police forces, the following day, carried out the assault on the camp, finding an empty territory and the defiant message from the peasants.
The statement in which the families reveal their feat was signed by the People’s Assembly of Camp Manoel Ribeiro, its Committee for the Defense of the Agrarian Revolution (Comitê de Defesa da Revolução Agrária, CDRA), the LCP of Rondônia and Western Amazon, and the National Committee of the LCPs of Brazil, and it addresses all the facts that led to the development of the great resistance undertaken during these almost ten months.
According to the LCP, the decision was made to avoid a new massacre, and the camp continues with its structure of organization and mobilization in full operation: the Popular Assembly, the CDRA, and all the Work Commissions. The peasants’ promise is to return with more strength and organization.
Courage and Resistance in the Face of Attacks
The statement mentions that there was a willingness and courage to face gunfire and the Old State at the service of the land-grabbing latifundium (big landlords). The proof of this was all the continuous resistance actions undertaken in the face of the dirtiest attacks that had occurred since the families entered the area.
These attacks, which started with the armed gangs of the latifundium, started to be carried out by the military police themselves (under the orders of Colonel PM Marcos Rocha, current governor of Rondônia) after the arrests of some henchmen. These acted during all this time as private security on the farm Nossa Senhora Aparecida, perpetuating an illegal and criminal siege with public resources against the people themselves in the middle of the pandemic. Among the attacks, the LCP reports the real war operation mounted for months, which involved several attempts at invasions, torture, and other crimes denounced by the campers, all repelled by the families present there.
The LCP also describes the increase in attacks on the camp after statements made by Bolsonaro against the peasant movement and the struggle for land. The criminalization created to justify the repression preceded the scenario prepared by the reactionaries to finally carry out a new massacre in the lands of Santa Elina (Corumbiara).
The Peasants’ Imprisonment
An important complaint is made in the pronouncement, regarding the arrest of four young peasants. The text reports that during the escalation of attacks and persecutions, the arrests of the workers took place. “To make the arrest, the police cut the wires of the fence and launched vehicles in pursuit of the comrades until they ran over some and arrested the four,” says the text. They go on to affirm: “Then they told the lie that the police were ambushed (how is this possible in a pasture, in the open?) And that the peasants allegedly fired shots at the police. Liars as always!” the document says, confirming that the evidence presented for the imprisonments was forged.
When they realized that the genocidal and fascist ones gave carte blanche to the latifundium, who had hundreds of troops “thirsty for the blood of the poor who raise their heads and look at them with determination and courage,” and due to the unfavorable conditions, the families evaluated, through the People’s Assembly, the situation, and even with courage and willingness to “face such an extreme situation and make these criminals pay dearly and in the same currency,” they decided to withdraw in an organized manner to later return with thousands to end the latifundium.
The decision, according to the LCP, was made once they understood that they had completed a “victorious journey for the Agrarian Revolution, which forged everyone from Manoel Ribeiro, still counting on so much support from our people across the country and from comrades all over the world.” They also affirm: “With gratitude, we warmly greet [the support] with the promise to remain firm in the fight and return in the thousands and prepared to sweep away the latifundium in the region.”
The Successful Exit and Failure of the Enemy
The peasants’ organization also reports that the apparatuses and attacks served to prepare those who resisted. Thus, under the eyes of the enemies and the whole war apparatus prepared to carry out a new massacre, the withdrawal of all families took place, and what they found when they invaded the camp was the resounding message: “We will come back stronger and more prepared!”
This situation proved to be shameful for the troops, described by the LCP as “troops of beasts commanded by thugs, strategists of massacres of unarmed poor people” and their representatives, such as the landowners, Bolsonaro, Marcos Rocha, and others, who insisted on not promoting the situation that would expose how much his attempt at carnage had failed.
The peasants remain with their heads held high and convinced of victory, according to the pronouncement. They affirm that this journey was just one of many battles for the conquest of the land and that with the certainty that the cause is just and that it is right to rebel, they will return.
The movement declares that the lands of Camp Manoel Ribeiro have already been cut into small plots to be distributed to families and the lots have already been drawn.
The families report that in the daily life of the Camp they learned to raise the organization and discipline of workers much more, to solve problems, and to do everything collectively with their own hands.
Describing what life was like in the camp, they report that in Camp Manoel Ribeiro the masses decide everything collectively with discussions, studies, and voting decisions on all matters taken by the majority’s will through the People’s Assembly and applied by its governing body, the CDRA, directly elected by the masses with revocable delegations and mandates at the time the Popular Assembly decides, thus ensuring that those with a leadership role always remain faithful to the application of the will of the majority.
In the note, the peasants affirm that everyone in the area has equal rights and duties for all. With regard to women, they say that they have increased their participation at all levels of responsibility, from the bottom to the top and in all matters. And they report that through the Popular Women’s Movement (MFP, Movimiento Feminino Popular) they were able to prove their worth and gain recognition for combat and education, against female oppression. In these months, the children of the Camp had child care, school, and sports and recreational activities.
Work commissions, according to the report, were formed for every type of task, from problems of logistics, production, supply, health, education and cultural activities, celebrations of the historic dates of the popular struggle of the Brazilian people and of the world, of our people, heroes and heroines, security and defense, etc. The control of sanitary prevention of the pandemic and other care within the camp in relation to health was also implemented throughout the period.
The peasants affirm that “the organization of the people is much superior, and it is the necessary way so that the popular force today, still dispersed and disorganized, becomes a powerful organized force and through its expansion and multiplication, carries out the transformations the country needs.”
Fulfillment of Promises
In the statement, LCP affirms that it is not only fighting for land, but also for justice, for the power of new democracy and a New Brazil for “our children and grandchildren” and declares, “The League cannot get land or anything for the people, no—the League is the peasant people organized in the combative and independent struggle against oppression and exploitation imposed by the nation’s parasites.” (italics not in original) The movement shows that the people who get the land are the masses organized in the conscious struggle, willing to use all the necessary means to conquer it. “Only the masses have the strength to remove all obstacles from their path and to transform society,” it says.
In view of this, the signing organizations declare that the battle for the complete conquest of the lands of Santa Elina has not yet ended and recall that after the episodes of the Armed Peasant Resistance in Corumbiara in 1995, they vowed to retake the lands and fought for all the years that followed to fulfill this commitment.
“We withdraw now to come back stronger and never leave. These lands claimed by the indigenous and peasant blood spilled on them, blood that flows in our veins, will be taken over and handed over to the rightful and de facto families. Whoever lives will see it!” says the movement.
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