Brazil: LCP communique denounces legal persecution of peasants struggling for land in Rondônia

Featured image: Peasant organization denounces legal persecution in Rondônia. Photo: reproduction

We publish the statement from the League of Poor Peasants (Liga dos Camponeses Pobres – LCP) in Rondônia and Western Amazonia published in A Nova Democracia. They denounced the persecution imposed against four peasants arrested and politically persecuted since 2021.

A new stage of the unfair farce trial against Ezequiel, Luis Carlos, Estéfane and Ricado is scheduled in August. In 2021 they were arbitrary imprisoned for 7 months, they continue facing restrictive measures, they paid a fine and now they will answer for a federal crime – possession of communication radios. All this repression because they participated in the historical Manoel Ribeiro Camp, between Corumbiara and Chupinguaia, struggling to free the last part of the old Santa Elina farm from the clutches of the big landowners.

The four young people were sentenced to 5 years of prison by the judiciary, in a farce process that was done quickly, full of arbitrariness. All the accusations are based on the testimonies of the police who spent months surrounding and provoking the camp, preventing the entry of food and medicine; all these violations disposed to a juridical order that prohibited the military from attacking the camp. The MP (Translator’s note: Military Police) reinforced its troops stationed at the headquarters of the Nossa Senhora Aparecida camp, humiliated and attacked the neighboring peasants, invaded houses, cut fences, suspended medical care and vaccination, at the peak of the pandemic.

The police chased, ran over and arrested Ezequiel, Luis Carlos, Estéfane and Ricardo and after they had already surrendered, they attacked and threatened them. The soldiers lied and said that they were ambushed by the peasants and that young Estéfane shot against them. The police destroyed the camera of one of the vehicles and planted radios, a revolver and bullet cartridges in the belongings of the four members of the camp.

And this happened in the same lands soaked in peasant’s and indigenous’ blood, spilled in 1995 by the same Rondônia MP, together with gunmen, in the service of the large estates. The shameful troop terrorized and tortured 600 families and murdered 11 peasants, including little Vanessa, who was just 7 years old. Two of the commanders of such barbarities were decorated and promoted over time, at the time of the Manoel Ribeiro Camp, the butcher of Santa Elina, Hélio Cysneiros Pachá became to be State security secretary and Ronaldo Flores became the general commander of the MP.

If justice existed in Brazil, before condemning Ezequiel, Luis Carlos, Estéfane and Ricardo, Judge Liliane Pegoraro Bilharva would have requested a gunpowder test in her companion’s hand, she would have investigated the crimes committed by the police and would have considered the images of the police vehicles and drones – evidence full of outright lies and all the abuse by MPs. If there was justice, the peasants would gain freedom and land and the military would be arrested.

But there is no justice in Brazil! Not from the old State. At the hearing in which the 4 members of the camp were sentenced, the judge sabotaged the defense lawyers and prohibited the virtual participation of democratic organizations, despite the trials being public. The incident report states that a radio was found with them, then another device appears; always without identifying who it was with. Despite this, the federal judiciary accepted the farce, claiming that there was “reputable material evidence, produced properly and according to regulations”. Earlier, two other peasants from the Manoel Ribeiro camp had already been convicted of illegally possessing weapons, also in record time and without due process of law.

Nego Zen’s Case: the judiciary serves the big landlord’s land thief and murderer of peasants

Judge Liliane Pegoraro Bilharva is known for her pro-landlord, anti-peasant and anti-poor sentences, the most recent of them was the one on the 14th of March, when she unfairly sentenced six peasants to 102 years in prison! It was for the death of the the big landowner Heládio Cândido Senn, called Nega Zen, and his miserable gang (including the gunman boss known as Neguinho Capeta) in 2021. Even if Nego Zen was a major bandit that collected enemies all around Rondônia only the LCP and the poor peasants were investigated and accused arbitrarily, without any concrete proof, basing themselves only in rumors, and “he’s saying that” and testimonies full of contradictions. An eyewitness did not recognize the peasants; two of the defendants were convicted even without being indicted by the delegate who presided over the investigation; the judge undermined the defense in several ways; the trial took place in just one day and in record time – less than a year and a half after the deaths.

The unjustly arrested peasants, including an under-age young person, were tortured by the police with beatings and drowning. The police pages did not publish any photos of the moment of arrest, as they would prove yet another crime by the murderous MP.

With little effort, anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear can gather countless disastrous acts by the big landowner Nego Zen, a well-known bandit, land thief and murderer of the poor. Against peasants fighting for land, he committed crimes of kidnapping, torture, shooting, aggression, threats and humiliation, in addition to the theft of public lands, such as the Vilhena camp, where his life of crime came to an end. But not only that, Nego Zen stole land and cattle from neighboring medium-sized landowners, moving fences and taking any animal that “accidentally” entered his property. He was known for trafficking diamonds, exploiting work known as “slavery”, burning houses to collect loan shark debts, rape, etc.

As always, despite all this, as if by magic, Nego Zen was transformed into “innocent person, of the best quality”, Christian, “owner” of the Vilhena camp, etc., by the media monopolies and by the city hall that declared official mourning. As all criminals do, Nego Zen was a regular churchgoer, prayed every morning and made large donations, but outside of there he was the “devil in person”.

The working poor people know very well that true justice does not come from the judiciary. Where were the judiciary, the governments and their police that did not defend workers from the countless crimes of Nego Zen and his gang? It’s no use for the prosecutor of the case to say that for the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Rondônia the most valuable asset is life, because the working poor people know very well that for the judiciary, only values the lives of big landowners exterminating indigenous peoples, massacring poor peasants, thieves of public lands, contaminators and destroyers of nature and the basis of national subjugation. While for them the life of a poor person, and particularly of a peasant, is worthless.

The people do not forget, the people think, the people compare the absence of investigation and justice to the executors and those who ordered the massacres of indigenous peoples and peasants in Corumbiara (1995), Eldorado dos Carajás (1996), Cujubim (2016), Colniza and Pau D’Arco (2017), in Nova Mutum (2021 and 2023), of the murders of peasant leaders, Renato Nathan, Cleomar, Zé Bentão, Gedeon, Luiz Lopes, Enilson, Izaque and Edilene, Paulo Justino, of the murders of the peasants Amarildo, Amaral, Kevin, Rodrigo, Raniel and many others, who even after so many years remain unpunished.

Terrorism cannot stop the struggle for land

The heroic peasant resistance in the Manoel Ribeiro, Tiago dos Santos and Ademar Ferreira areas were the most important popular struggles in Brazil during the genocidal mismanagement of the generals and Bolsonaro and taught us the important lesson that no terrorism is capable of stopping the struggle for land. On two occasions, Bolsonaro publicly accused the LCP of being terrorist and promised Rondônian big landowners to crush it. He provided financial resources, military equipment and the National Security Force to repress the struggle for land in the state; took legal measures for the entire reaction to arm itself with weapons of war and for the police to continue killing with impunity. Governor Colonel Marcos Rocha, under the leadership of the big estates and Bolsonaro, he enlarged the repressive apparatus and demonized and criminalized the LCP and the families who struggle for the land.

As they did not achieve their objectives, much less stop the struggle for land, the old State tries to avenge the political and military defeat they suffered by venting its rage as a loser on those arrested and persecuted politically around the struggle for land. And it follows the old practice of treating the country’s most important and urgent problem as a crime: the democratization of land tenure and ownership for peasants without land or with little land.

Now under the management of Luiz Inácio, the old State follows the same repression against peasants, however disguised behind supposedly environmental issues, as it did in past governments.

Far from demonstrating strength, all the terrorism of the old State demonstrates its weakness, despair and the fear that the landlords and their bloodhounds have, that the masses of poor peasants without land or with little land will find a just and combative leadership, like the LCP, and like a torrent propel the Agrarian Revolution. As long as the land is concentrated in the hands of a handful of parasitic landowners, the peasants will lack it and they will continue to struggle, with ever more experience and willingness to use all the necessary means to conquer the land, their just goals and aspirations.

The Agrarian Revolution advances firmly in the destruction of large estates, dividing land and handing over lots to poor peasants who start to live with dignity from their own sweat, developing the local economy, bringing hope to the corners of the country. It is the beginning of the New Democratic Revolution, which will free our people and nation, building on the ruins of bureaucratic capitalism, the New Brazil, of land, work, justice, freedom and new democracy.

We call on all peasants, workers, students, teachers, workers in general, truly democratic entities and people from Brazil and the world to raise a new campaign for the annulment of unfair trials, for freedom and the end of the processes against the brave peasants in the struggle for the right of land for those who live and work on it!

Down with the criminalization of the struggle for land! End persecutions, arrests and trials!
Punishment for the executors and masterminds of peasant murders!
Struggling for land is not a crime!
Conquer the land, destroy the
big estates!
Long live the Agrarian Revolution!

LCP – League of Poor Peasants of Rondônia and Western Amazônia
July 2023

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