No more rural violence!

Violencia cero en Pará

Open Letter from

IUF Latin America

to the President of Brazil


Denouncing the murder of José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva

(Zé Cláudio) and Maria do Espírito Santo Silva




Regional Latinoamericana
Unión Internacional de Trabajadores de la Alimentación,
Agrícolas, Hoteles, Restaurantes, Tabaco y Afines (Rel-UITA)



Argentino Geneiro

Neuza Barbosa

Carolina Llanos

Héctor Ponce

Silvia Villaverde

Alberto Broch

Siderlei de Oliveira

Luis A. Pedraza

Guillermo Rivera

Edwin Ranchos

Gerardo Iglesias
Secretario Regional


President of the Federative Republic of Brazil

Ms Dilma Rousseff

Palacio de Planalto



Dear President,


We are writing you on behalf of the IUF’s 374 affiliates from 119 countries around the world to express our profound dismay at the murder last Tuesday, May 24, in the state of Pará, of a husband and wife team of rubber tappers and environmental and trade union activists who had been working for years to combat deforestation and the misappropriation of land.


José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva (Zé Cláudio) and Maria do Espírito Santo Silva were executed in cold blood and part of their ears were cut off by their murderers as a warning of more terror and death to anyone who continues their struggle.


This barbaric and savage act would rightly be considered without a doubt an act of “terrorism” anywhere in the world, as it was a premeditated and planned out crime committed by professional assassins against innocent and unarmed persons, motivated by political, social and economic objectives.


These are “instrumental deaths,” mere tools meant to influence a conflict that is not private but public.


This time they were the chosen victims, but it could have been any of the 300 people who are in the sinister death list drawn up by political and business forces who are driven by profit and power as a means of increasing their wealth.


Rural violence in present-day Brazil is not just a primeval practice rooted in pseudo-feudal relations and promoted by the “coronéis” and land barons who have traditionally ruled over a lawless and God-forsaken land.


Today’s murderers -the men who give out the orders to kill- have computers with Internet connection, 4G cell phones and all the latest technology to protect their rural investments, allowing them to access weather forecasts, consult export prices, close business deals at a distance, manage stocks, operate bank accounts, and more.


But there are some things in which they have not changed: they are still deforesting, they are still using cheap and even slave labor, they are employing hired guns, and they are benefiting from a system of impunity illegally secured by complicit officials who, moved either by conviction or self-interest, act from public state bodies, transforming this violence into parastatal violence.


It is a true organization created to kill, steal, lie and manipulate, in sum, what is commonly known as “organized crime” or mafia. Nowhere in the world have such mafia groups been defeated without an equally specialized and powerful effort commanded by the political will of the state, the same state that today gives free reign to criminals while at the same time leaving local rural communities utterly unprotected.


In an interview published only two weeks ago on our web page, members of our Brazilian affiliate, the National Confederation of Agricultural Workers (CONTAG), had forecasted the intensification of violence in Pará, possibly favored by the recent change in state governor.


We are all deeply distressed to learn that their prediction came true. This state-backed private terrorism has to stop so that Brazil can once and for all be steered towards the modern-day democracy that it has already achieved in other essential aspects.


Which is why we are joining all those who condemn and reject these vile murders to demand, together with the vast majority of the Brazilian people, that any necessary actions be implemented to decisively and persistently combat all of these mafia groups and criminal organizations that are greatly hurting Brazil.


In this area, like in others, we expect truth, justice and punishment for the perpetrators. We hope to see an end to impunity. So that we can all be truly equal before the law. So that the right to life and to fight for one’s ideals will finally be a reality for all.



Gerardo Iglesias

IUF Latin American Regional Secretary


Montevideo, May 30, 2011


cc CONTAG, IUF Geneva, ILO, PGAW-IUF, Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (CSA), ITUC, Amnesty International, World Rainforest Movement, Labor Federations of Brazil, and Latin American Association of Labor Lawyers.



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Tel: (5982) 9007473 - 9021048 / Fax: 9030905  -


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