Land occupations in Brazil in Red April

Featured image: peasants against the police in a land retaken. Source: A Nova Democracia.

More than 20,000 families have taken over lands and occupied them in 14 states of Brazil as part of the Red April and facing the lack of agrarian reform that could benefit landless peasants.

Every April, Abril Vermelho (Red April) occurs in Brazil, where land seizures are carried out by peasants to demand agrarian reform. The murder of 21 landless peasants and members of the MST by the Military Police on April 17, 1996 in Pará is also commemorated. This massacre is known as the “Eldorado dos Carajás Massacre.”

This year, according to A Nova Democracia (AND), occupations have been registered in at least 14 states in Brazil; among them Pernambuco, Goiás, Pará, Paraná, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro or Bahia. At least 20,000 families have participated in these occupations.

These seizures occur after the insufficiency of the measures that the government has tried to take to prevent occupations. For example, trying to avoid the Red April mobilizations, the government has announced the “Land of the People” program in which it claims to invest 520 million Reais to “accelerate land settlements.” However, this is a quarter of what the movements for the land ask for, which calculate that 2 billion Reais would be needed per year.

In different states, families faced repression by state forces, mainly the Military Police. In Campinas (SP) a large number of police were mobilized in order to repress and disperse the peasants and carry out the eviction from the lands. Smoke bombs, rubber bullets and fighting dogs were used against them. When the families protested and held a march for the end of the repression, the march itself was repressed by the Municipal Guard of Campinas. Also in São Paulo, in the city of Agudos, 300 families were expelled after two days of suffering intimidation by the police and the lands were returned to the big landlords.

A thousand families were also evicted in Goiás by the Military Police. The land they occupied belongs to a large company, the Brazilian Bioenergy Company, and the 8,000-hectare plot it uses had been seized, according to the Ministry of the Environment for having committed environmental crimes. In Rio de Janeiro, the police used drones to intimidate families settled in Campos dos Goytacazes, in the Josué de Castro camp.

However, as we have seen on other occasions, big landlords also carry out attacks and intimidation, by themselves or by goons. But above all, it is important to note that they receive the support from the Military Police, who also usually intervene jointly with the big landlords to defend their “right” to private property. This is what happened in Espírito Santo, where cars, tractors and drones from the landlords side were used together with the MP to retake the peasants’ lands.

In addition to the repression that the peasants are experiencing, which Lula’s government mercilessly exercises, a new law has been approved in the Chamber of Deputies that determines administrative sanctions and restrictions applied to the occupants and “invaders” of rural and urban properties. Along with this, another decree has been approved to increase the freedom of action of the police forces and act against land occupiers without a court order.

Previous post India: Massacre by the old State
Next post India: the massacre in Kanker was a fake encounter