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Date: Wed, 8 May 1996 05:10:53 -0500
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>>> Item number 7499, dated 96/04/27 01:14:27 -- ALL
Date: Sat, 27 Apr 1996 01:14:27 GMT
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From: Rich Winkel <rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu>y Organization: PACH

/** headlines: 145.0 **/
** Written 12:13 PM Apr 25, 1996 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
From: IGC News Desk <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>

/* Written 6:24 AM Apr 22, 1996 by ax:pacs in igc:econ.saps */
/* ---------- LETTER ON BRAZIL MASSACRE ---------- */

Letter on Brazil Massacre

By Marcos Arruda, Institute Alternative Policies for the Southern Cone of Latin America, 22 April 1996

Institute Alternative Policies for the Southern Cone of Latin America
Rua da Gloria, 190/502 - 20241-180 Rio de Janeiro - Brazil
Tel. (021) 252 0366, fax 224 3107, email: pacs@ax. apc.org

Your Excellency
Fernando Henrique Cardoso
President of the Federal Republic of Brazil
fax 061 226 7566

Your Exellency, Presidente Cardoso,

We met when I came to Stanford, USA, in 1972, in a trip promoted by Amnesty International, to speak about repression and torture in Brazil under the military dictatorship (which lasted from 1964 to 1985). I was then 31 and had been arrested and tortured by the military for having worked as a metal worker earning the minimum wage, when I was a geologist by profession. My crime was to teach workers and to help them participate in trade unions. Back in Brazil, you and I talked on the phone once or twice.

Now you are the President of Brazil. I am an economist and educator in PACS, chair of ICVA's Commission on Sustainable Development (International Council of Voluntary Agencies, Geneva) and member of the Transnational Institute (Amsterdam).

I am writing to you about the Eldorado dos Caraja's massacre. I am deeply ashamed with the brutal and pre-historic violations of human rights that continue to happen in Brazil, now under your Presidency. It is precisely what is behind the killing of more than 20 landless workers that should deserve your best attention. I speak in the name of the Institute of which I am a coordinator in Rio de Janeiro, working in Brazil and abroad, in collaboration with the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB), the National Council of Christian Churchers (CONIC), social movements, trade unions, some municipal governments and a number of NGOs and citizens' networks around the world.

The repulsion of the massacre and the revolt against another barbarous act perpetrated by public authorities against defenseless rural workers must be vehemently expressed. But this is not enough. For politicians it is as easy to protest in words as it was to have met with large landholders to plan a tough and inflexible method of dealing with the Landless Movement.

It is public knowledge that the number of dead is much above the 19 who were presented by the Military Police to the Minister of Justice. Many were executed point blank after having been arrested, with shots in their heads and backs or simply cut in pieces with sickles and machetes. Women and children were shot and many have disappeared. All indicates that the police action had been planned in advance and that after the massacre evidence was purposely erased. A journalist and a cinematographer were detained and their films taken by the police. It is also widely known that three days before the massacre the Mayor of Curionopolis, Joao Chamon Neto, had announced openly and repeatedly that he was going to stop the highway picket line even at the cost of blood. The state and federal authorities did not take any preventive measures.

It is also serious that this is clearly not an isolated case. Violence against the Landless Workers has occurred systematically in many states of the Nation, indicating that your Administration, despite your express intention to give priority to the implementation of rural reform, in practice does not accept the demands related to the needs of the Landless Workers, and does not show political will to respect the agreements affecting them. It rather treats them as police cases. It also ignored the warnings of a Federal Representative from Para', in a speech in Congress and in a letter addressed to you, about the imminent risk of serious conflict in the region where the massacre was perpetrated.

There is no reason to worry that the image of Brazil abroad is denigrated. It is too late, for it is not information that denigrates, but facts. Some weeks ago, Minister of Justice Nelson Jobim visited Geneva to present a document to the UN Commission on Human Rights containing your Administration's human rights policy. In practice, this policy is at stake. The former massacres were left unpunished, those who forged them were never identified or caught by Justice. The big criminals, current or potential, are free. The culture of impunity continues to prevail and to assure them that they can go ahead. The motto among the people is Follow this advice: do not be a small thief.

No one was punished for the Corumbiara, Rondonia massacre, where 11 rural workers were assassinated in August 1995. The enquiry on the Eldorado dos Caraja's massacre may also be fruitless, for it will be prepared by the same Military Police who perpetrated it.

We favor the urgent approval by the Federal Senate of the Helio Bicudo Project which transfers the trial of military criminals to civilian justice.

We favor that your Administration abide by the agreement made with the Landless Workers to mobilize your supporters in Congress urgently to approve two draft bills, already being processed, that provide the writ of entry to INCRA (the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform) in the dispossessed areas in 48 hours and forbid judges from issuing warrants for collective ejectments in the rural environment.

With the Brazilian Bar Association, we favor the investigation by the Presidency of the Republic, of the responsibility of your Ministers of Agriculture and of Justice, for the lack of implementation of the action plans related to agrarian reform and respect for the human rights of rural workers, and the dispossession of sufficient land for the settlement of the families of the rural workers who were victims of the police action in the state of Para'.

Your Administration has vigorously subsidized the private bankers with public money, including those who are involved in scandals and are suspect of illegality. We favor that you show the same vigor and willingness effectively and rapidly to implement agrarian reform in a country that intends to modernize and that is currently the fourth largest in the world in continuous territory.

We favor that your Administration accept the request by the Landless Movement to have a public audit for the negotiation of the terms of the agrarian reform.

We demand that your Administration do not nominate once more a large landowner to replace Mr. Andrade Vieira as Minister of Agriculture, and do not had this Ministry and the cause of agrarian reform to the Brazilian Popular Party, who leads the powerful faction of the large landowners in Congress.


Small properties occupy today only 25% of Brazil's arable land but produce more than half of the food crops in the country: they are 6.5 million, while the 500 thousand rural establishments above 600 hectares occupy 75% of the country's arable land. But your Administration's subsidies have generally benefitted the latter. Like the one recently given to the sugar mill owners, worth US$ 5.8 billion, which is the equivalent to 4.5 years of salary for more than one million seasonal rural workers.

With no land, producers live unstable conditions: rural producers who do not own land exploit 17.8% of rural establishments, in only 4.8% of the total area; more than 33% of Brazil's arable land is underutilized. There facts generate tension and social conflict in the whole country.

Inevitable consequences on the urban population: the existence of large landholdings, the expropriation of rural workers and the lack of rational agricultural and an agrarian policies which give priority to rural and rural worker development have given rise to growing countryside-to-city migration with negative consequences on urban life conditions, above all on work, health and housing.

Stabilization and adjustment policies give incentive to exports and harm food production: grain production increased from 1.11kg to 1.17kg per person/day during the 1980s while that of the main staples of the food basket -- rice and beans decreased from 200g to 180g. According to IBGE (the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), 32 million Brazilians suffer from starvation. According to the same Institute, in 1989 more than one million children under five, or 7% of the population in this age bracket, were moderately or seriously malnourished. Malnourishment afflicts 13 percent of the Northeastern children under five.

A PACS-INCRA research in 1988 revealed that 46 large enterprises and economic groups controlled altogether 22.6 million hectares, or the sum of the areas of the states of Pernambuco, Alagoas e Santa Catarina, or 5.5 times the area of Switzerland: of this total, 18.3 million hectares, or 82 percent, were classified as idle large landholdings. They generated only 63.3 thousand salaried jobs. Only 13 of the 46 were mainly agroindustrial enterprises. The others were industrial and financial groups. The studied properties encompassed five percent of the state of Amazonas, 94% of which were idle large landholdings; and 2.44 percent of the state of Para', with 88% classified as idle large landholdings.

Bamerindus, the bank belonging to the former Minister of Agriculture Andrade Vieira, was one of the large financial groups included in the PACS-INCRA research: it owned 255 thousand hectares in several states, which had only 138 employees and included 85.6 percent of land classified as idle large landholdings.

We expect your prompt and efficient action regarding this tragic matter.

Sincerely Yours,
Marcos Arruda