On December 8th, two peasant leaders of the Landless Rural Workers Movement of Brazil were shot to death by hooded man while they were having dinner at their campsite “Don José María Pires”, in Paraíba State. This clearly reflects a “hate speech” which has been specially targeting Brazilian popular organizations.
The victims were Rodrigo Celestino and José Bernardo da Silva (known as “Orlando”), coordinators of the campsite shared by approximately 450 families, which is in the middle of an expropriation process to become a settlement according to the procedures of the Agrarian Reform Institute (INCRA). The fact that they were visible leaders of the organization is proof of “the nature of the crime aimed at intimidating those who struggle for land”, reads a statement issued by the MST.
Thais, a member of MST´s communications team in Paraíba was interviewed by RWR about the double murder that took place on Saturday. He said that approximately 450 families live and produce at the campsite, which puts them into an extremely vulnerable situation in terms of parapolice actions, which is even worse after the murder of the leaders.
Paraíba is the epicenter of the struggles for land in Brazil. “Ligas Campesinos, one of the most important movements was highly active in the State during the 1950s and 1960s, mainly in Mari region, Paraíba”, according to Brasil de Fato.
“With this murder, the MST and its struggle for land lose two extremely valuable comrades”, said Thais. He also talked about one of Orlando´s brothers and member of the Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB), Odilon da Silva, who was also murdered nine years ago by “capangas” (hitmen) ordered by landowners.
“With the loss of these two comrades, the struggle for land in Brazil is once again tainted with the violence perpetrated by the landowners in this and other ways”, said Thais.
“They were victims of a hate speech, which has been growing in Brazil together with a neofascist wave that manipulated workers and resulted in the electoral victory of Jair Bolsonaro”, said the member of the MST giving context to this murder.
According to Thais, this campsite does not have a history of conflicts, but it is located in the middle of a land dispute in Paraíba. The land´s agricultural and limestone extraction uses are the reason why it is so transcendental for agribusiness.
“It is an extremely violent region, with cane sugar and limestone production, which explains what happened to Orlando and Rodrigo. We expect that the murderers and the masterminds behind the crime are found and prosecuted. We also want protection for the families, who are extremely vulnerable. And that finally the land is expropriated and granted to the workers”.