Brazil: Peasant denounces goons from a plant from the times of slavery – “They were beaten and went to the police to cry”

We publish an unofficial translation of the article of A Nova Democracia.

The peasants’ struggle for land in the interior of Pernambuco is defeating a campaign of political persecution. The peasants interviewed by AND give details of how leafleting is criminalized, accusations that peasants set fires and other measures that seek to stop the struggle of peasant families.

A large mobilization of students, teachers and workers is going on in support of peasant actions in the city of Jaqueira, in Pernambuco. As a result of this union, a series of actions were carried out recently, seen as a great victory in the struggle for land, such as the self-demarcation of their lands, known as the “Popular Court”. This struggle promises to bring the entire state to a standstill and could be the prelude to a major confrontation between peasants supported by city workers against the industrial latifundium, which is the direct heir of the slave owners Empire, and which today is the economic base of support for the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira.

In recent months, the peasants of Barro Branco, squatters and true owners of the land registered in the name of the slave and fraud factory Frei Caneca, have been experiencing a true state of siege established by the Civil Police of the municipality of Jaqueira-PE. The objective is to frighten the peasants and make them abandon the struggle for those lands, which have been in their possession for over a century. The peasants even nicknamed the Civil Police station as “DOPS [Department of Political and Social Order created to keep the social order at the beginning of past century] de Jaqueira”.

The peasants denounce that the police is acting as goons for the big landlord Guilherme Maranhão, owner of Agropecuária Mata Sul LTDA, which leases this land in the Pernambuco forest zone.

The pro-latifundium actions of the Civil Police

In an interview with a local correspondent for the newspaper A Nova Democracia, a worker denounced the brutal persecution they are suffering, which methods range from the criminalization of leafleting at fairs, to the establishment of an illegal investigation, with police raids, forced testimony and threats of arrest of surveyors and even lawyers in a clear violation of the constitutional right to legal defense.

— They arrived wanting to know who the leadership was, entering without presenting any mandate, asking questions about the LCP and threatening to arrest everyone in another area of ours. They summoned one of our lawyers and wanted to force him to give a statement. They wanted him to say that we are a criminal organization. They call us thieves, accuse us of stealing construction materials, causing fires and say we are a criminal association. They never proved anything. I am a believer, I am not a thief. The criminal here is this Agropecuária Mata Sul.

In their justifications, the Civil Police said they are investigating due to successive local police reports. Although they claim that such incursions have nothing to do with the struggle for land or attempted political persecution, they do not clarify what is behind the attempt to extract information about peasant leaders and the struggle.

Through sources, who preferred to remain anonymous, the AND team had access to the investigation files, with incidents registered over a year, ten in sum, always made by the same people representing Agropecuária Mata Sul. Their content involves accusations of fires and theft of construction materials, but without presenting any evidence.

About this, a peasant said:

— This is factory land, where sugarcane is planted. Fires are common. They set it on fire and then go there and incriminate us. You can see that in this bulletin they say that there is a barrier to prevent the fire from spreading. Is anyone who wants to start a fire worried about this?

Among the records is one from the Civil Police itself investigating a leafleting activity carried out by peasants at a traditional fair in the region, which denounces the political nature of the process. This number of reports that seem to be copies of each other are too inconsistent material for opening an investigation capable of clarifying anything. But they serve to establish a police state over the masses. The Civil Police station, called “Jaqueira’s DOPS” by the peasants, opened a police investigation in the service of the latifundium:

— They said that it has nothing to do with land, that we are right in that, but that they want to combat the actions of a criminal organization, as they are saying. They talk like this because they know they have to draw us as criminals because they cannot deny that this land is ours.

Such blatant behavior by the Civil Police takes place at a time when, after raising the flag of the Poor Peasants League, the peasants have made great progress in their struggle, obtaining victories, such as the suspension of the land auction and the decision in a public hearing where the company will be forced to demarcate waterholes that were being poisoned, as already was infromed in this article.

The people’s response

Among the flood of reports with replicated content is the bulletin of men named by peasants as company goons. While defending the water holes, these men fired shots and attacked peasants. The families promptly repelled the offensive.

In such reports, men (already known to the peasants) pretend to be victims in an attempt to incriminate them as delinquents and aggressors. They even say that they were beaten with clubs for no reason, however, the provocative and aggressive behavior of these individuals is known throughout the region.

— It’s a joke, we were demonstrating and they arrived mocking, swearing, shot with a gun to intimidate and then attacked us. The people responded, no one will get caught, especially the miserable armed goons — a peasant added.

He continued defending the action as self-defense for families:

— It’s the law, we can defend ourselves. But then they got beaten up and went crying to the police, the criminals pretending to be the victims and the police persecuted. In the confusion, their drone broke down and they wanted to blame us. Those who can’t handle a club, don’t show a club. It’s like this with the League: hit us, we will hit back.

Old State ignores peasants’ complaint

The persecutative nature of the investigation is blatant due to the lack of proves for the accusations presented in the reports that the police rely on to pursue the peasant struggle. The delegate states that there is an “intersubjective connection between fires, thefts and confusion at a demonstration”, but does not present concrete evidence.

On the part of the peasants, there are a hundred police reports denouncing home invasions by hooded men with vehicles, threats from goons, physical and verbal aggression, torture and poisoning using drones. This robust collection of evidence was made by the peasants without any support from the institutions of the old State, as there was no desire on the part of the Civil Police to investigate the actions that link the latifundium to illegal and criminal actions.

Peasants question this double standards attitude:

— They’re all purchased, reports we’ve already done a lot. Here at our place they came invading, hooded, wearing shorts and with a police car, saying that we had to ‘get out’. They threw poison at an autistic child, destroyed a banana plantation, called a woman ‘whore’ and for the police this is nothing. Who is a criminal? They are the devil, acting to kill, steal and destroy.

A Federal Police operation, entitled “Fogo Morto”, executed search and seizure warrants at the headquarters of the company Agropecuária Mata Sul amid investigations into fraud and other crimes by Guilherme Maranhão and other mill owners in the state.

The behavior of the Civil Police, which for peasant families has been linked to the latifundium for years, reflects the despair of big landlords in the region in the face of the people’s struggle. This struggle does not retreat, but intensifies with the objective of repelling the attacks of the goons with combativeness, raising their struggle even higher, unmasking the false promises of opportunism. The peasants even claim that they are “cornering the land thief Guilherme Maranhão and the fraudulent leases of Usina Frei Caneca”.

— We know they are scared, they no longer pass cattle on the road, they no longer look us in the face, they are scared, since the League’s flag was raised the people finally look up and they look down. The word of the Lord says that the humiliated will be exalted, we are tearing down the wall of Jericho. With God and the League, we will march until the end.

Barro Branco squatters hold a successful popular assembly and denounce: police are for thieves, not peasants!

A team of AND was also present at a popular assembly organized by the peasants.

Held on May 11th, the eve of Mother’s Day, the assembly brought together more than 60 peasants from Barro Branco to celebrate the victories of the struggle and evaluate the next steps in the struggle against police persecution. The peasants are squatters of the land of the Frei Caneca plant, which is the target of complaints by families struggling for being illegally leased by Guilherme Maranhão and his company “Agropecuária Mata Sul”, located in the municipality of Jaqueira, in the forest area of Pernambuco.

At the assembly, the peasants denounced that the plant originated from slavery and is currently bankrupt. They celebrated the victory of the demarcation of the water holes that were being contaminated and poisoned by the latifundium company and also rejected the persecution by the Civil Police who carried out a series of arbitrary actions and persecutions. The objective of the Civil Police’s action, according to the peasants, is to frighten and divide the struggle for land.

In total, more than 60 peasants were present at this assembly, participating in a proud and vibrant manner. The peasants defined the slogan “Police for thieves, not for peasants!” in rejection of the persecution and pointing out that the real thief is the owner of Agropecuária Mata Sul and those who the families pointed out as his goons (characterized by the peasant movement as “bandits whose history of threats, torture and persecution is already known”).

During the assembly, the peasants denounced that the Civil Police plays the role of “servant of the latifundium”, even investigating simple leafleting at a fair, violating the most basic democratic right, the right to struggle.

In a highly acclaimed speech at the assembly, the League of Poor Peasants stated the following:

— If you think that with this you are going to frighten the peasants, you are very mistaken. We are united in our struggle and certain of our victory. Criminal association is Agropecuária Mata Sul and its gang of bandits! Let’s respond with more struggle and mobilization to conquer what is rightfully ours!

At the same assembly, the peasants unanimously decided to raise the flag of the Palestinian people in honor of their national resistance and affirming their solidarity with this struggle, as well as launching a propaganda campaign against police persecution and denouncing the crimes of the latifundium.

A day later, the committee was already hands on, working at full steam, as shown in the images below:

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