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Brazil: A bloody week in the countryside
SIX PEOPLE were killed during a bloody week in the countryside in Brazil. It started with the killing of the American missionary Dorothy Stang on 12 February in the state of Para. She was murdered because she fought against the powerful interests that carry out illegal logging in the Amazons.
Marcus Kollbrunner, Revolucionario Socialismo, CWI Brazil
But the violence against social movements is also present in the cities. On 16 February the military police in Goiania (capital of the state of Goias) carried through a brutal eviction of 12,000 "roofless" who since May last year have been occupying a deserted plot of land. This "Operation Triumph" led to at least two killings but there are witnesses claiming that at least ten people died.
Social movements, like the landless and roofless, together with the trade unions and left parties, must react to this violence and repression. Demands must be raised for an end to the impunity for those who do the killings, but also for a real land and urban reform, and against the neo-liberal i.e. capitalist policies of president Lula's government.
The Lula government is not implementing any real land reform and allies itself with agro-business and big landowners.
During 2003 and 2004 only 117,555 families were allotted a piece of land, compared with the already low target of 170,000. But there is also the opposite process, a counter-reform.
According to the CTP (a church movement that deals with the land issue) 35,292 families were evicted from their plots of land in 2003. Incomplete figures for 2004 suggest that there were 34,850 evictions last year.
After the murder of Dorothy Stang, which attracted a lot of attention, the Lula government announced a package of measures. However, nothing is done to solve the underlying problems. "Without land reform the violence will continue", is the usual comment from activists from social movements in the countryside. The government has decided to send 2,000 soldiers to the area but this will not solve the problem.
Massacre in Goiania
THE PLOT of land in the industrial area Parque Oeste Industrial in Goiania contains 891,000 square metres which have not been used for decades. The owners do not pay any taxes and have accumulated tax debts of more than 3 million reals (Real - Brazil's currency).
On the other side there are 4,000 families, 12,000 people, without a place to stay. In May last year they occupied the area and started to build Sonho Real ("Real Dream"). During the election campaign last year they were promised, both by the state governor Marconi Perillo (PSDB, social democrat - the governor is responsible for the military police) and the soon to be elected mayor Iris Resende (PMDB), that the families would be able to stay.
"The governor received us in his palace and gave us his word that he didn't have any interest in evicting the families from the area. That gave us strength to continue and before the police went in we didn't think it would happen", says Americo Novaes from MTL (Movement for Land, Work and Liberty) and the co-ordinator of the occupation.
But the right-wing politicians have different priorities. A few days after the landless were brutally evicted, one of the local papers carried a list of which companies had given money to the mayor's election campaign. A majority of the names were estate agents and construction companies.
The Lula government is trying to take advantage of the situation by claiming that the violence in Para is a reaction of the right wing against the policies of the PT (Workers' Party) government and that it's necessary to rally round PT. But it is the government itself who is responsible for the situation, by implementing neo-liberal policies and making agreements with the right.
It is not possible to fight for a land reform and urban reform without clashing with the government. The leadership of the MST (Movement of the Landless Rural Workers) is doing everything to avoid a direct confrontation with the government. They erroneously claim that the government is an "ally" and that the struggle is against a "section" of the government (the finance minister, the head of the central bank).
The murders of landless and homeless people show that the ruling class will not give up its privileges without a struggle. It is necessary to unite the social movements, trade unions, the student movement and the left parties in a struggle against this system, built upon repression and exploitation.
The violence in the countryside and the cities won't stop until the end of the capitalist system. Therefore it's no solution to bring in the army or more police as it's basically a social and political struggle. The forces of the state - police, army and courts - play the role of defending this unjust system and the privileges of the ruling class. That doesn't mean that they cannot be forced to act against elements of the ruling class that get out of hand and threaten to ignite huge protests which in turn pose a threat to the established order.
However, the workers' movement can only rely on its own forces. The social movements and trade unions must organise committees for self-defence, in the countryside and for the occupations and settlements. It's also necessary to set up independent commissions, with representatives from the social movements, the landless and homeless, trade unions, representatives of the families of the victims and other movements, to investigate the murders in Para and Goiania.
A national campaign must urgently be launched against the repression of the government, the big landowners and the timber industry. The social movements, the landless and homeless, trade unions, student movements and left parties must put all their weight behind this.
In The Socialist 12 March 2005: