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90+ Celebrities, Actors, Artists, and NGOs Decry Attack on Brazil School

#Articles & Analysis#Human Rights Defense
November 2016



  • Jovanna Garcia Soto, Grassroots International, 617-524-1400, (Boston, MA)
  • Maria Luisa Mendonça, Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil, 510-283-8374, (Berkeley, CA)
  • Alexander Main, Latin America policy analyst, Center for Economic and Policy Research, 202 293 5380, ext.123, (Washington, D.C.)

For immediate release

(Boston, MA, November 14, 2016)

Danny Glover, Camila Pitanga, Wagner Moura, Brian Eno and Dira Paes joined over 90 celebrities, academics, and organizations to issue an urgent call (see letter below) to denounce the raid by police of an internationally renowned school in São Paulo, Brazil on Friday morning, Nov 4th. Police fired live ammunition at the teachers and students, and without a warrant detained members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST), which owns and operates the school.

“Brazil is under an illegitimate regime that took power after a parliamentary coup against president Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached even though she didn’t commit any crime. The current regime is implementing unpopular austerity measures, including severe cuts in education, healthcare, environmental regulations and various social programs. In this letter, important international organizations, artists and intellectuals are expressing concern about a new wave of repression against social movements in Brazil, especially the Landless Workers Movement (MST)”, says Maria Luisa Mendonça, Director of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil.

This brutal action is widely seen as a part of a recent and expanding crackdown against social movements, and particularly the MST, the largest land and human rights movement in Latin America, spanning several states including Paraná, Goiás, Mato Grosso do Sul, Pará and São Paulo. In Paraná recently, eight local MST leaders were detained for unknown reasons. Since the administrative parliamentary coup earlier this year against the democratically elected President of Brazil, human rights and environmental movements and leaders have noted an uptick in police and para-military assaults on them.

The “Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes” (ENFF) is an internationally renowned school, with hundreds of intellectuals from Brazil and around the world holding lectures and teaching courses there. It has been financed by Brazilian musician Chico Buarque, photographer Sebastião Salgado and the Portuguese Nobel Prize winning author José Saramago, among others.

Addressed by a group of over 90 celebrities and internationally known organizations, the letter’s signers include Danny Glover, Camila Pitanga, Wagner Moura, Brian Eno, Dira Paes, Friends of the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network, Movimento Mundial pelas Florestas Tropicas, Rede de Pesquisa Observatório das Nacionalidades, Amazon Watch, FIAN Brazil and FIAN International.

The following is the full letter and list of signatories:

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 9:25 am 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.



  1. Danny Glover, filmmaker and activist (USA)
  2. Camila Pitanga, actress (Brazil)
  3. Wagner Moura, actor (Brazil)
  4. Dira Paes, actress (Brazil)
  5. Oliver Stone, film director(USA)
  6. Brian Eno, musician and composer (UK)
  7. Sílvia Buarque, actress (Brazil)
  8. Osmar Prado, actor (Brazil)
  9. Paulo Betti , actor (Brazil)
  10. Cristina Pereira, actress (Brazil)
  11. David Miranda, journalist and city councilman (Brazil)
  12. Miguel Altieri, Sociedad Cientifica LatinoAmericana de Agroecologia
  13. James Early, former director of Cultural Heritage Policy at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution (USA)
  14. Pat Mooney, author and recipient of the Right Livelihood Award (Canada)
  15. Gary Prevost, political science professor at St. John’s University (USA)
  16. Miguel Tinker Salas, professor of Latin American History, Pomona College (USA)
  17. Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America director of ETC Group (Mexico)
  18. Tariq Ali, writer and filmmaker (UK)
  19. Nicole Fabricant, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Towson University (USA)
  20. Jorge Varela Marquez, Premio Goldman 1999 (Honduras)
  21. Alexander Main, senior associate at Center for Economic and Policy Research (USA)
  22. Harry E. Vanden, Professor, University of South Florida (USA)
  23. Robert Austin, Visiting Scholar, Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies, The University of Sydney (Australia)
  24. Fernando Morais, author and journalist (Brazil)
  25. Nora Hamilton, Professor of Political Science, University of Southern California (USA)
  26. Clara E. Irazábal-Zurita, Professor of Urban Planning, University of Missouri (USA)
  27. Dr. Clifford Andrew Welch, Professor of Contemporary History of Brazil, Universidade Federal de São Paulo (Brazil)
  28. Alastair Iles, Associate Professor, University of California at Berkeley (USA)
  29. Julie A. Charlip, Professor, Latin American History, Whitman College (USA)
  30. Philip McMichael, Cornell University (USA)
  31. Gary Prevost, College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University (USA)
  32. Cecilia Santos, University of San Francisco and Center for Social Studies at University of Coimbra (USA)
  33. Monica Dias Martins, Professor, Universidade Estadual do Ceará (Brazil)
  34. Dianne Rocheleau Professor Geography, Clark University (USA)
  35. Catherine Badgley, professor, University of Michigan (USA)
  36. Richard Stahler-Sholk, Eastern Michigan University (USA)
  37. Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor of Latin American History, Pomona College (USA)
  38. Hilbourne A. Watson, Department of International Relations, Professor Emeritus, Bucknell University (USA)
  39. Ilene Frank, Professor emerita, Tampa Library, University of South Florida (USA)
  40. Bernardo Ricupero, Professor of Political Science, Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil)
  41. Dale Leonard Johnson, Professor (Costa Rica)
  42. Kevin A. Young, Assistant Professor of History, University of Massachusetts Amherst (USA)
  43. Jan Rus, Centro de Estudios Superiores de México y Centroamérica (Mexico)
  44. Tatiana Schreiber, Adjunct Professor, Environmental Studies, Keene State College (USA)
  45. Gordon Fitch, PhD student, University of Michigan (USA)
  46. Mario A. Murillo, Hofstra University (USA)
  47. Anne Elise Stratton, University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources & Environment (USA)
  48. Kristin Mercer, Ohio State University (USA)
  49. Kathleen McAfee, San Francisco State University (USA)
  50. Lisa Bradshaw, University of Michigan Dearborn (USA)
  51. Christina M. Schiavoni, International Institute of Social Studies (Netherlands)
  52. Ryan Zinn, Fair World Project (USA)
  53. Peter Rosset, Centro de Estudios para el Cambio en el Campo Mexicano (Mexico)
  54. Aldo De la Mora, University of Vermont (USA)


  1. Grassroots International
  2. Development and Peace
  3. Amazon Watch
  4. FIAN Brazil and FIAN International
  5. Friends of the Earth, USA
  6. Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
  7. Transnational Institute (TNI), Holland
  8. Climate Justice Alliance, USA
  9. Food First
  10. Focus on the Global South, Thailand and Philippines
  11. Asian Pacific Environmental Network, USA
  12. Other Worlds
  13. Family Farm Defenders, USA
  14. Ambiente, Desarrollo y Capacitacion, Honduras
  15. Asociación de pescadores de Pequeña Escala de Cedeno, Honduras
  16. Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA), Berkeley, CA
  17. ETC group International
  18. GRAIN, Canada
  19. Movimento Mundial pelas Florestas Tropicais
  20. Rede de Pesquisa Observatório das Nacionalidades
  21. Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
  22. Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), India
  23. India Union of Forest Working People AIUFWP
  24. Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Kenya
  25. National Family Farm Coalition, USA
  26. Peoples Architecture Commonweal, India
  27. Rede de Pesquisa Observatório das Nacionalidades (UECE)
  28. Social Action for Change (SAC), Cambodia
  29. Project South, USA
  30. Society for International Development (SID)
  31. Solidarity for Sustainable North East, India
  32. Solidarity Sweden – Latin America
  33. The Corner House, UK
  34. Women Lanka Network, Sri Lanka
  35. WhyHunger, USA
  36. Black Mesa Water Coalition, USA
  37. FIAN Sweden
  38. FIAN Germany
  39. Movement Generation, USA
  40. Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, USA
  41. The Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of New York
  42. Cooperation Jackson, USA
  43. Farmworker Association of Florida, USA
  45. Brazilian Women’s Group, USA
  46. Community Alliance for Global Justice
  47. Indigenous Environmental Network
  48. Rising Tide North America
  49. Ironbound Community Corporation, USA
  50. Brazilian Expats for Democracy and Social Justice, USA
  51. The Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary, USA
  52. Stone Soup Worcester, USA
  53. US Global Village Farms
  54. Southwest Workers Union, USA
  55. The Ruckus Society
  56. International Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees
  57. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
  58. The Transnational Institute
  59. Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom US Section
  60. US Friends of MST
  61. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, USA
  62. Community to Community, USA
  63. Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. of New York, Inc.
  64. Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville, USA
  65. Pesticide Action Network, USA
  66. Acción por la Biodiversidad, Argentina
  67. Centro de Estudios para el Cambio en el Campo Mexicano


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