The Repression and Criminalization of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement Must Stop

Armed police raid the MST’s National School, detain MST members and fire live ammunition

Early on the morning of November 4, armed police raided the “Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes” (ENFF) in Guararema, Sao Paulo, detained members of the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) members and fired live ammunition. The ENFF school is owned and run by the Landless Workers Movement (MST).

This brutal action is part of an illegal crackdown operation against the MST spanning several states – Paraná, Goiás, Mato Grosso do Sul, Pará and São Paulo. In Paraná, eight local MST leaders were detained for unknown reasons.

The MST – or Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – was created over three decades ago and is Brazil’s largest social movement dedicated to defending small farmers’ access to land and national agrarian reform. The MST has assisted hundreds of thousands of peasant families in gaining land for farming with the support of articles 184 and 186 of Brazil’s 1988 Constitution. The MST has also played a central role in the broad-based, peaceful protest movement opposing the anti-democratic and illegitimate removal of democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff from office on August 31 this year.

The “Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes” campus was financed with donations from Brazilian musician Chico Buarque, photographer Sebastião Salgado and the Portuguese Nobel Prize winning author José Saramago, among others. Hundreds of intellectuals, teachers and artists from Brazil and around the world have held lectures and courses at the school and contributed teaching materials. The ENFF is a symbol of solidarity with the rural movements in Brazil and with movements in other parts of Latin America and the world that advocate for the democratization of education and land.

The raid of the school by armed police was carried out without a warrant. Police agents arrived around 9:25am and, shortly afterwards, climbed over the reception gate and shot multiple rounds. Based on the bullet casings found at the scene, the police used lethal rounds – not rubber bullets.

According to the MST, two members of the movement were detained and subsequently released a few hours later. Those detained were the singer Gladys Cristina de Oliveira and 64 year-old librarian Ronaldo Valença Hernandes, whose rib was fractured during the incident.

State-led attacks against the MST began escalating during the month of September when several members of the MST were arrested and accused of being part of a “criminal organization” under the new Law of Criminal Association.

We call for an immediate end to the repression and criminalization of the MST and other grassroots organizations in Brazil, and for the release of all those arrested on groundless charges.

Advocacy for land rights and peaceful protest are not a crime. They are essential rights protected under Brazil’s constitution and that must be respected by all Brazilian authorities.

Signed:

Individuals
Danny Glover, filmmaker and activist (USA)
Camila Pitanga, actress (Brazil)
Wagner Moura, actor (Brazil)
Dira Paes,  actress (Brazil)
Oliver Stone,  film director(USA)
Brian Eno, musician and composer (UK)
Sílvia Buarque, actress  (Brazil)
Osmar Prado,  actor (Brazil)
Paulo Betti ,  actor (Brazil)
Cristina Pereira, actress (Brazil)
David Miranda, journalist and city councilman (Brazil)
James Early, former director of Cultural Heritage Policy at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution (USA)
Pat Mooney, author and recipient of the Right Livelihood Award (Canada)
Gary Prevost, political science professor at St. John’s University (USA)
Miguel Tinker Salas, professor of Latin American History, Pomona College (USA)
Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America director of ETC Group (Mexico)
Tariq Ali, writer and filmmaker (UK)
Nicole Fabricant, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Towson University
Jorge Varela Marquez, Premio Goldman 1999
Harry E. Vanden, Professor, University of South Florida
Robert Austin, Visiting Scholar, Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies, The University of Sydney
Fernando Morais, author and journalist (Brazil)
Nora Hamilton, Professor of Political Science, USC
Clara E. Irazábal-Zurita, Professor of Urban Planning, University of Missouri
Julie A. Charlip, Professor, Latin American History, Whitman College
Gary Prevost, College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University
Cecilia Santos, University of San Francisco and Center for Social Studies at University of Coimbra
Monica Dias Martins, Professor, UECE
Richard Stahler-Sholk, Eastern Michigan University
Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor of Latin American History, Pomona College
Hilbourne A. Watson, Department of International Relations, Professor Emeritus, Bucknell University
Ilene Frank, Professor emerita, Tampa Library, University of South Florida
Dale Leonard Johnson, Professor, Heredia Costa Rica
Bernardo Ricupero, Professor of Political Science, USP
Nora Hamilton, Professor of Political Science, USC
Kevin A. Young, Assistant Professor of History, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Jan Rus, Centro de Estudios Superiores de México y Centroamérica, Chiapas, MEXICO
Alexander Main, senior associate at Center for Economic and Policy Research, USA

Organizations
Grassroots International
Development and Peace
Amazon Watch
FIAN Brazil and FIAN International
Friends of the Earth, US
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Transnational Institute (TNI), Holland
Climate Justice Alliance, USA
Food First
Focus on the Global South, Thailand and Philippines
Asian Pacific Environmental Network, USA
Other Worlds
Family Farm Defenders, USA
Ambiente, Desarrollo y Capacitacion, Honduras
Asociación de pescadores de Pequeña Escala de Cedeno, Honduras
Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA), Berkeley, CA
ETC group International
GRAIN, international
Movimento Mundial pelas Florestas Tropicas
Rede de Pesquisa Observatório das Nacionalidades
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), India
India Union of Forest Working People AIUFWP
Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Kenya
National Family Farm Coalition, USA
Peoples Architecture Commonweal, India
Rede de Pesquisa Observatório das Nacionalidades (UECE)
Social Action for Change (SAC), Cambodia
Project South, USA
Society for International Development (SID)
Solidarity for Sustainable North East, India
Solidarity Sweden – Latin America
The Corner House, UK
Women Lanka Network, Sri Lanka
WhyHunger, USA
Black Mesa Water Coalition, USA
FIAN Sweden
FIAN Germany
Movement Generation, USA
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, USA
The Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of New York
Cooperation Jackson, USA
Farmworker Association of Florida, USA
UPROSE, USA
Brazilian Women’s Group, USA
Community Alliance for Global Justice
Indigenous Environmental Network
Rising Tide North America
Ironbound Community Corporation, USA
Brazilian Expats for Democracy and Social Justice, USA
The Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary,  USA
Stone Soup Worcester, USA
US Global Village Farms
Southwest Workers Union, USA
The Ruckus Society
International Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
The Transnational Institute
Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom US Section
US Friends of MST
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, USA
Community to Community, USA
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. of New York, Inc.

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