The eviction of vulnerable workers in Bolsonaro’s Brazil is a violent crime which should be met with resistance and solidarity, reports Orlando Da Rocha Hill.
On Thursday morning 13 August, 200 troops from the military police from five different battalions invaded the settlement of Quilombo Campo Grande in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, Brazil with the objective of evicting 450 families.
By the end of the morning, the school Escola Popular Eduardo Galeano had been bulldozed and areas of the settlement were ablaze. João Pedro, from the national steering committee of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) tweeted that “not even in wars do armies destroy schools. Why does the PM [military police] destroy a state school?” The school not only taught children, but also had a literacy programme for adults.
On Wednesday, the Governor of the state, Romeu Zema, had tweeted that he was in favour of postponing the eviction of the families. This announcement was received as a victory by the rural workers. However, it was short-lived. In less than 24 hours, he backtracked and sent the police in. The hashtag #ZemaCorvade (#CowardZema) went viral.
On Friday, after 60 hours of resistance, the families were evicted by the police with the violent use of tear gas. Houses and crops were destroyed.
The campaign, Despejo Zero (Zero Eviction), led by MST, the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) and over 100 social movements, has denounced the eviction to the United Nations. The campaign also denounced the fact that the action is taking place during the state of public calamity caused by the covid-19 pandemic and asked that the UN intervene, demanding that Governor Romeu Zema immediately suspend the eviction.
The mobilization of the police apparatus has made social distancing impossible, exposing not only the rural workers and their families, but also the entire population of the region to the spread of Coronavirus.
Silvio Netto, from the national steering committee of the MST, stated that, in the face of the pandemic, eviction is a criminal act.
"Eviction is a war crime, it is a crime against humanity right now. Whoever practices it, whether they are a judge, governor, president of the republic, it will go down in history as a genocide. We will not hesitate at any time to make this complaint.”
Quilombo Campo Grande takes its name from a former settlement of runaway slaves (maroons), freed slaves, native Brazilians and poor whites that existed in the 19th century.
In 1998, the MST occupied the land that had belonged to the sugar mill Adrianópolis bankrupted in 1996. The sugar mill owners, Companhia Agropecuária Irmãos Azevedo (Capia), abandoned the land and equipment without paying their employees their wages and with a debt of around R$300 million to the Bank of Brazil and in unpaid taxes. The land was valued at around R$30 million. (1)
The Brazilian constitution understands that land
“must fulfill a social function that guarantees the rights of workers, the environment and fraternity. The obligation to enforce it belongs to the holder of the property right, who loses the legal protection rights of his title if he does not comply, that is, when he does not comply, he cannot invoke the State Powers to protect his rights.” (2)
The workers who occupied the abandoned land transformed it from a monoculture of sugarcane into a large scale of agroecological production. The famous organic coffee Café Guaií is produced by the quilombo along with other types of crops, such as corn, beans, honey, vegetables, greens, legumes, chickens, cattle and milk.
According to the MST, in the last year alone, families have produced 8,500 bags of coffee and 1,100 hectares of crops with 150 varieties grown, without the use of pesticides. (3) Food to feed people and not commodities for the export market.
Demanding the eviction of the families is the businessman Jovane de Souza Moreira, with the objective of reactivating the failed sugar mill to fulfill a commercial agreement with Jodil Agropecuária e Participações Ltda. The owner of the company in question is João Faria da Silva, considered one of the largest coffee producers in the country.
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Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.
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