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Statement in Solidarity with the MST

December 2018

Grassroots International joins our partners in Brazil and people of conscience worldwide in condemning the brutal murders of two leaders of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in the Dom José Maria Pires agrarian reform encampment, in Alhandra County, Paraiba, Brazil. This is the latest crime against social movements in Brazil’s countryside.

We mourn the deaths of Rodrigo Celestino and José “Orlando” Bernardo da Silva, both MST camp coordinators, and send our love and solidarity to the MST, including the 450 families that live in the Dom José Maria Pires camp where Rodrigo and José organized. Families in that camp are exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to settle on and farm land that was abandoned and not being used productively — a right squarely in the crosshairs of the incoming Bolsonaro government.

The MST issued a statement demanding justice and punishment for the culprits for assassinating rural workers. It reads in part: “In these times of anguish and of doubts about the future of Brazil, we cannot let those who have political and economic power control our destiny. Therefore, we continue reaffirming our struggle in defense of land as the central issue to guarantee dignity to the workers of the city and the countryside.”

Throughout the world, including in Brazil, women and men who stand up for human rights, who demand protection for rivers and territories, who advance systems of justice and community — these women and men deserve our appreciation, admiration and support. Instead, and with heartless violence, they are being murdered and criminalized at alarming rates. Movements like the MST insist that all people deserve and have the right to live well and with dignity.They stand in the way of transnational investors, land speculators, big agribusinesses and others who would privatize, militarize and commodify the basic components of life.

We join in calling for an immediate investigation into the murders of Rodrigo Celestino and José “Orlando” Bernardo da Silva, and prosecution of the guilty perpetrators of their crime. Additionally, as small scale farmers, Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendant communities, feminists, and LGBTQ come under increased threats in Brazil and globally, we call for their protection, and we affirm their vital work in defense of human rights and of Mother Earth.

Grassroots International is committed to continuing to stand in solidarity with the social movements and frontline communities experiencing multiple forms of attacks and brutal repression in this period, and to standing with them as they work towards a vision of social justice, life, and collective well-being.

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