On November 20th a gang of hired gunmen opened fire on the families of Nova Alegria Farm near Felizburgo, Minas Gerais. Violent resistance to the agrarian reform movement led by Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) has been on the rise in the last several years, and the perpetators of the crimes too-often go unpunished. For more information on the details of the attacks, read the statement below from the MST. Find out below how you can help put an end to impunity.
S Paulo , November 23, 2004
To: Secretariats of the MST, Institutional and Individual Friends
From: The Human Rights Sector of the MST
RE: Massacre of Landless Workers in Felizburgo Minas Gerais
We are sending this summary report on the events which took place in Minas Gerais where five landless rural workers in camps were assassinated.
On the 20 th of November, around 12 noon about 200 families that occupy the Nova Alegria Farm since May 1st 2002 were surprised by a spray of bullets that were shot by 18 hired gunmen, 3 of whom were masked. The gunmen, coordinated by Mr. Adriano Shafico and his cousin, were heavily armed and assassinated 5 landless workers, four of whom died on the spot and one more died on the way to the hospital.
The companheiros who were killed are: Iraguiar Ferreira da Silva 23 years old, Miguel Josdos Santos – 56 years old, Francisco Nascimento Rocha – 62 years old, Juvenal Jorge da Silva 65 years old and Joaquim, Josdos Santos,70 years old.
More than 13 other landless workers were shot and three are in critical condition (they were transferred to a municipal hospital in Teilo Otoni in Minas Gerais). Among the wounded is a 12 year old child. In addition to the shootings the gunmen also set fire to all of the tents and buildings that the landless workers had constructed.
The New Alegria Farm is located in the municipality of Felizburgo, in the region of the Valley of Jequitinhonha, in the state of Minas Gerais.
The Land Institute of Minas Gerais – ITER – undertook a preliminary investigation and documented the fact that this farm had been devolved to the state and was currently property held by the state of Minas Gerais. But as a result of the inefficiency of the Judiciary the settlement process had not yet been completed.
Aware of this situation, the former landowner has spent the past two years provoking and threatening the landless workers camped on the property. The landowner even kidnapped some youth and tried to do everything in his power to force the landless workers to leave the land.
The solidarity that has been shown to the encamped workers has been great. At all times many people, including workers, popular movement leaders, trade unionists, general supporters and authorities from all over the country have visited and expressed their support.
On Sunday November 21, 2004, Miguel Rosseto (Minister of Agrarian development, Holf Hackbart (President of the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform) and Nilmio Miranda (Special Secretary of Human Rights of the president of the Republic) all made visits to landless workers and promised to prosecute the authors of these crimes to the fullest extent of the law.
The surviving victims provided their statements and three of the gunmen are already under arrest. Preventive arrest of the landowner Adriano Shafico and of another 9 people associated with the crime has been ordered. The body of evidence against the landowner is great. He planned, contracted the gunmen and personally participated in the massacre according to the depositions gathered as well as the statement of almost all of the victims that have been heard to date
The Landless Workers Movement hopes that justice will be served, that all of the gunmen and the landowner who controlled them will be imprisoned immediately and that the state government of Minas Gerais will take complete possession of the area in order to undertake a speedy distribution of the land to the landless workers.
The state of Minas Gerais and the former owner of this unproductive large landholding are totally responsible for the massacre. The state of Minas Gerais has 11 million hectares (approximately 27.1 million acres) of devolved and currently state-owned land and has done nothing to facilitate Agrarian Reform and land distribution in the state. The judicial process of land appropriation for the public domain has not met with quick response in the courts.
The MST has asked that you send a fax or an email to the Governor of Minas Gerais, demanding that the state prosecute and imprison the gunmen and those who contracted and ordered them to take action as well as the immediate settlement of the families encamped on the state owned land and that they speed-up land distribution in accordance with Agrarian Reform Law.
Send your letter to:
Governor of Minas Gerais
Pra da Liberdade S/n (Palio da Liberdade)
Funcionios Belo Horizonte – CEP: 30.140-912
Fax: (31) 3250 6339
Tell him that you are concerned about the escalating violence against land reform activists in Brazil.
Demand that the state ensure that the police take any and all necessary and lawful action to prosecute the perpetrators and authors of this crime to the fullest extent of the law, and that they will do everything necessary to ensure that no more attacks like this take place.
Demand that the state speed up the distribution of un-used, state-owned land.
Please send a copy of your messages to us. We will forward it to the Sector of Human Rights of the MST, so that they will know you have offered your support and solidarity.
Thank you for your support.