Our colleagues in the Brazilian Movement of People Displaced by Dams (MAB) just sent some wonderful news that I want to share with you. After a week of intense work gathering support from Brazilian and international organizations, 14 MAB members are now free, although another four still remain in jail.
The original group of 18 activists was arrested for demonstrating on behalf of families displaced by the Tucuruí Dam in the Amazon region. The group of peasant families called on the Brazilian government to stop the mega-dam project and instead provide infrastructure projects–such as roads, schools and health clinics–and to open lines of credit for agriculture and fishing farming.
Negotiations with government representatives did not happen. Instead, police met the group’s mobilization with force, dispersing the crowd and arresting 18 participants.
Ally organizations, including Grassroots International, wrote letters in support for the MAB members, leading to the release of 14 individuals last Friday. MAB sent a note of appreciation for this partial success while asking for continuing support for their four members still in jail:
The liberty of 14 members was possible because of a great network of solidarity. We still have to demand the freedom of four comrades who remain in jail. It is not just that peasants and fishermen have their freedom stripped away for demanding better life conditions. At the same time, the murders of Sister Dorothy Stang* are still free.
*Sister Dorothy was a nun born in the United States who was murdered on February 12, 2006, because of her support for peasant rights in the Amazon.
The remaining four MAB members were singled out as the leaders of the demonstration, further indicating that the arrests were political in nature. Along with our partners in Brazil, Mexico and the United States, Grassroots International continues to oppose the growing criminalization of social movements.