Brazil                                              Campaign Against Rural Violence

Violencia cero en Pará

Rural violence

The basis of the agro-industrial system depends on murderers, hypocrites and slave drivers




The next “Marcha das Margaridas”, organized by the National Confederation of Agricultural Workers of Brazil (CONTAG) for August 21-22, is certain to include a tribute to the struggle and figure of the missionary Dorothy Stang, murdered in 2005 in the state of Pará. Her murderers are now also accused of enslaving their workers, thus exposing rural violence for what it is: not a sum of isolated individual acts, but the result of a productive system that fosters and protects it.


At the break of dawn, on February 12, 2005, Dorothy Stang, a 73 year-old American nun who had been living for the past three decades in the Brazilian state of Pará, left the rural village where she had spent the night, and started to make her way across the surrounding dense bush, through a narrow, winding road. She would never reach the other side. Hidden at a bend in the road, Raifran das Neves, alias “Fogoió”, and Clodoaldo Batista, a.k.a. “Eduardo”, were lying in wait for her, and as she went past, they shot her six times in the back, killing her.


The news of Stang’s murder made headlines around the world, momentarily drawing global attention to several issues: rural violence in Brazil, the deforestation of Amazonia, the impunity of local powers and the complicity or indifference of national authorities, and the tough and risky conditions in which this region’s unionists, human rights activists and ecologists struggle. But it also revealed the harsh conflict over land that is waged in Brazil, pitting masses of landless peasants against small groups of powerful landowners who will resort to any means to preserve and expand their privileges. Above all, it exposed the economic and productive scheme that promotes and consolidates these relationships of inequality, vicious domination, and violently gained instant profit: the commodity-oriented system of industrial agriculture.


Justice, for once


In December 2005, “just” nine months after Stang’s crime was committed, and marking a record in efficiency in the history of the Brazilian justice system for this kind of cases, 29-year-old Fogoió and 31-year-old Eduardo, both “capangas”* of the local large landowners, were found guilty and sentenced to 27 and 17 years in prison, respectively. Actually, neither of them had any personal reasons to kill Stang. They did it for the money -24 thousand dollars- and the promise of work in the establishments of the landowners that commissioned the “job”: Reginaldo Pereira Galvao, alias “Taradao”, 40 years old, and Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, known as “Bida”, 35 years old, who together had engaged the trader Amair Feijoli da Cunha, a.k.a. “Tato”, 37 years old, to hire the hit men.

Dorothy Stang had been receiving death threats from local feudal lords for years


These wealthy, shady characters were obviously moved by economic reasons: “sister Dorothy”, as she was known to everyone, was an active promoter of the Sustainable Development Program (PDS) of Amazonia, which forces official agencies to implement the settlement of rural families. This entails granting land ownership to thousands of peasants in need of land, under an agrarian reform. These federal agencies, however, are normally run by corrupt officials who sell their services to local large landowners, who ultimately end up appropriating the lands meant to be distributed to dispossessed families.


A murder foretold


In this case, Dorothy Stang had been receiving death threats from local feudal lords for years, and the approval of the PDS by Inacio Lula da Silva’s government had given her a tremendous tool to expand and back the struggle she was waging alongside thousands of peasants of the Anapú area, in the state of Pará. Armed with the new legality conferred by the PDS, several social organizations had been stepping up their actions to make local institutions comply with the law. On February 12, 2005, the local “crime syndicate” made good on the threats against Stang, convinced that in that way it was clearing the way for the transnational agricultural project it was carrying out.


These bandits, supported by corrupt officials from various government agencies, are the spearhead of an agricultural system founded on the unsustainable use of natural resources and the exploitation of human beings to produce industrial quantities of soybean, sugar cane or beef for the global market. Most of this production, which is obtained through the application of massive amounts of agrochemicals, is absorbed by transnational corporations, which in turn export it to the countries of the North, and most recently to China. This other “crime syndicate” -more elusive, but of global proportions- is the real assassin of Dorothy Stang. And it is responsible for the deaths of so many other unionists and activists that did not gain worldwide coverage, for the unchecked devastation of the Amazon rain forest and the displacement of peasants and the original inhabitants of these regions, for the violence and impunity, and for the imposition of a social system based on the fear of the poor and the hypocrisy of its accomplices.

These bandits are the spearhead of an agricultural system based on the unsustainable use of natural resources and the exploitation of


 A systemic violence


Bida and Taradao, the large landowners that financed and ordered Stang’s murder, recently made headlines (see article) when they were charged by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office with forcing 28 laborers to work under conditions of slavery in their Río Verde hacienda, 60 kilometers from Anapú.


An Infodecom article informs that “According to the Federal Prosecutor of Pará, this flagrant crime was discovered by the Special Mobile Control Group of the Ministry of Labor. The 28 workers were found deep in the forest, living in straw and plastic huts over bare earth. They were freed and paid the labor benefits due to them.


The campsite had no lavatories, no septic tanks, no potable water facilities, and no first aid supplies, and the workers had no personal protection gear. The nearest hospital facilities in the area are 60 kilometers from the site, and some of the laborers were injured and had received no medical care.


‘None of the workers were registered in a payroll or work file, and none of them had a regularly filled and signed work and social security card. They were forced to put in excessive workdays and were not given a paid weekly rest, with weekends being paid only if they were worked. There was no census, no social security contribution by the employer,’ the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office reported.”


This latest abomination thus paints the full picture of a violence that is intrinsic to the financial agro-industrial system imposed by transnational corporations, with the complicity of the survivors of the old oligarchies who have adapted to the times, and the new oligarchs who don’t bow to the imperialism of any one nation, but cater instead to globalized, transnational capital. The increasing inequality spreading throughout the world currently rests on the savage consumption of the natural resources of the South and the vicious exploitation of its population, or is furthered through marketing schemes, depending on the region of the world, and on whether or not it is a “hot” sub-region. The enormous concentration and accumulation of global wealth in an increasingly smaller handful of people necessitates, as an essential condition, all these forms of violence: from the crude six bullets that killed Dorothy Stang to the denial of our right to food sovereignty, as we are forced to feed the hogs or fuel tanks of the master at the expense of depleting of our natural resources.

Carlos Amorín

© Rel-UITA

august 12, 2007




 * Gunmen


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