Brazil: People’s Organizations Commemorate 26 Years of Peasant Resistance in Corumbiara

By Ben Robinson

Across Brazil, people’s organizations commemorated 26 years of the peasant resistance in Corumbiara on August 9 with large events. The date marks the anniversary of the Battle of Santa Elina, also known as the Corumbiara Massacre, when thousands of peasants threatened with eviction seized land in an area known as the old Santa Elina farm in outside the municipality of Corumbiara, Rondônia in 1995. This began the militant fight of the peasants that continues today—a fierce struggle against the latifundium (big landlords), who have mercilessly stolen land and terrorized peasants with assassinations and military attacks.

The militancy of the Battle of Santa Elina in the face of this violent repression and exploitation formed the basis for the League of Poor Peasants (LCP, Liga dos Camponeses Pobres) who have been the leading force in organizing the poor peasantry in their struggle for land, as part of the larger agrarian revolution.

At this year’s event, organized by the Brazilian Center of Solidarity with the People (CEBRASPO, Centro Brasileño de Solidaridad con los Pueblos) and other progressive groups, lawyers and intellectuals gave speeches in solidarity with the LCP in front of the Federal University of Rondônia. A speaker from CEBRASPO connected the peasants’ fight to the broader democratic struggle across the country, saying “more than ever, we need to celebrate Corumbiara’s resistance, because that battle serves us as an example of how nothing is impossible when the determined masses are organized in struggle … we can also defend ourselves from this pandemic and resist the economic crisis that already reaches the countryside and cities of our country!”

A mural of historic moments in the fight for land in Santa Elina

Several speakers also highlighted the four arrested peasants from Camp Manoel Ribeiro, who are currently imprisoned on false charges. A banner at the event read, “Freedom for the four political prisoners of Camp Manoel Ribeiro! Conquer the land, destroy the latifundium!”

Camp Manoel Ribeiro was formed last year as peasants seized the last portion of the Santa Elina Farm 25 years after the 1995 battle. This past spring, military police forces in service of the latifundium encircled the camp, preparing an operation to massacre the peasants. In May, the peasants broke through the siege and retreated, leaving a banner that read “We will come back stronger and more prepared!”

A representative of the LCP spoke at an event in the state of Minas Gerais, which was also attended by members of the Popular Women’s Movement (Movimento Feminino Popular), Revolutionary Popular Student Movement (Movimento Estudantil Popular Revolucionário), Revolutionary Front of Defense of the Rights of the People (Frente Revolucionária de Defesa dos Direitos do Povo), and the Health Defense Committee (Comitê de Defesa Sanitária), among other groups.

The LCP representative spoke on the importance of the Battle of Santa Elina and how it was the turning point towards organized militant resistance, adding that the imprisonment of the four arrested peasants shows the reactionary character of President Jair Bolsonaro’s genocidal government. The representative also stated that the Battle of Santa Elina was not just important for the peasant movement, but for the whole revolutionary movement in Brazil in the fight for new democratic revolution, as it demonstrated both the need for and the effectiveness of armed struggle.

Attendees at the event in Minas Gerais hold up photos of fallen peasant leaders.

The wide and varied character of the events demonstrates the growing strength of the fight for land in Brazil, with solidarity actions for the LCP occurring regularity in both Brazil and internationally. In their own words, the LCP will continue to come back “stronger and more prepared” in the face of the state’s attempts to wipe out the peasants movement.

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