FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Corporate Murder in Brazil

In the Brazilian state of Paraná, Valmir Mota de Oliveira of Via Campesina, an international peasant organization, was shot twice in the chest at point blank range by armed gunmen on an experimental farm of Syngenta Seeds, a multinational agribusiness corporation. The cold blooded murder took place on Sunday, October 21 after Via Campesina had occupied the site because of Syngenta’s illegal development of genetically modified (GM) seeds. Via Campesina and the Movement of the Landless Rural Workers (MST), the main Brazilian organization involved in Via Campesina’s actions, are calling the murder an execution, declaring, “Syngenta used the services of an armed militia.”

Syngenta is the world’s largest producer of agrochemicals and the third largest commercial seed producer. Between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta was responsible for the largest case of genetic contamination on the planet when its GM Bt-10 corn, approved for only animal feeds, was mixed with US grain meant for human consumption. Via Campesina first occupied Syngenta’s site in March 2006, after it discovered that Syngenta was illegally cultivating GM soybeans and corn. The occupation drew strong international support, and in November state governor Roberto Requião signed a decree of intent to expropriate the Syngenta farm, proposing to turn it into an agroecological research center that would benefit poor rural families. The decree was a huge political victory for the rural and environmental movements, challenging the power of agribusiness in Brazil.

When the MST organized a march to the Syngenta site in late November last year, its busses were halted by a blockade of tractors formed by about a hundred members of the Rural Society of the West, a group representing large landowners and commercial agricultural producers in western Paraná. It is part of a larger network known as ruralistas, which represent reactionary landed and agribusiness interests at the regional, state and national levels. Some Society members were on horseback and armed with guns. As the marchers began to cross the barricade, the Society fired shots into the air, and beat the marchers with sticks and clubs, resulting in the injury of nine people.

When asked why the organization had confronted the MST, Alessandro Meneghel, President of the Rural Society, responded: “to show that the rural producers do not peacefully accept land invasions and political provocationsAttitudes such as these, of legally questionable [land] expropriations, send a bad message to investors, chasing them away and provoking ‘Brazil risk.'” Meneghel threatened: “For every invasion of land that occurs in the region, there will be a similar action by the Society. We are not going to permit the rural producers to be insulted by ideological political movements of any kind.”

Syngenta, through its alliances with the Rural Society and other large landed interests, succeeded in overturning Governor Requião’s decree. In July of this year, the Via Campesina was evicted from the site, re-locating to the MST’s Olga Benário settlement, located next to Syngenta. The de-occupation occurred in conjunction with a peaceful march by the movements, after Requião ordered the police to stop the Rural Society from confronting the marchers. Control of the property was returned to Syngenta, and it was then that the corporation hired the private NF Security company to guard the site.

A statement on Syngenta’s web site claims the corporation “specifically agreed in the contract with [NF] security company not to use any force or carry weapons.” Yet in late July, families at Olga Benário were threatened by armed NF security guards, which entered the settlement and remained there for about 40 minutes. At night, the guards would fire shots in the air. These events were reported to the authorities.

As a result, in October the federal police raided NF Security’s headquarters, where it confiscated illegal arms and ammunition. The police report concludes that the NF Security company contracts individuals, many with criminal records, to form armed militias that carry out forced land evictions, and that the Rural Society numbers among its clients.

At dawn on October 21st, about 150 members of Via Campesina reoccupied Syngenta’s site, where they encountered four armed security guards, who were disarmed and left the site. At about 1 in the afternoon, Via Campesina reports, “a bus stopped in front of the entry gate and about forty armed gunmen got out, firing machine guns at the people that they saw in the encampment. They broke down the gate, then shot [Mota]. The militia attacked the encampment to assassinate the leaders and recover the illegal arms of the NF Security company.”

Five MST/Via Campesina members were wounded and remain hospitalized. Security guard Fábio Ferreira, who apparently returned to the site, was also killed. The reason for his death is unclear, although one MST member believes Ferreira was murdered because he had incriminating information he might have divulged. MST members Célia Lourenço and Celso Barbosa were chased and shot at, but managed to escape. It appears the two were targeted to die like Mota. Earlier this year, Meneghel of the Rural Society verbally threatened Lourenço at a public forum, and the MST reports that on March 27th, its office in Cascavel, Paraná received an anonymous phone call advising Mota, Lourenço and Barbosa to be careful because “a trap was being prepared for them.” Mota himself registered the death threats with the local authorities. On August 28, Terra de Direitos, a human rights organization, registered the threats with the National Program of Human Rights Defenders, and requested protection for the three.

The owner of NF Security, Nerci Freitas, has admitted he gave the order for the attack on Syngenta. He has been arrested and charged with homicide and formation of gangs. No one has claimed that the Via Campesina/MST occupants were armed. The organizations are calling for the immediate arrest of Meneghel, and are demanding that Syngenta leave Brazil immediately, declaring, “Syngenta Seeds should be held responsible for what occurred.”

Mota’s murder exhibits an unsettling arrogance and dismissal of the law and the government by the Rural Society, NF Security and Syngenta, not unlike that being played out on a grander scale by the Blackwater security company and US corporate interests in Iraq. It also highlights the increasing number of conflicts between agribusiness and rural civil society sweeping Latin America, as the alliance between national and international agribusiness deepens from country to country. Mota’s death could well signal a new era of continental violence and bloodshed as the powerful agribusiness interests come up against the progressive social movements that are shaking the Americas.

Isabella Kenfield is an associate of the Center for the Study of the America (CENSA) who has just returned from living in Brazil. She writes on agribusiness, agrarian conflicts and social movements.

Roger Burbach is director of CENSA who has written extensively on Latin America and US policy. He is currently at work on “The New Fire in the Americas.”

 

 

 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
March 27, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us
Louis Proyect
Life and Death in the Epicenter
Paul Street
“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Scum Also Rises
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts
Jefferson Morley
Could the Death of the National Security State be a Silver Lining of COVID-19?
Ruth Hopkins
A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman
Kathleen Wallace
The End of the Parasite Paradigm
Anthony DiMaggio
Misinformation and the Coronavirus: On the Dangers of Depoliticization and Social Media
Andrew Levine
Neither Biden Nor Trump: Imagine Cuomo
David Rosen
God’s Vengeance: the Christian Right and the Coronavirus
David Schultz
The Covid-19 Bailout: Another Failed Opportunity at Structural Change
Evaggelos Vallianatos
In the Grip of Disease
Edward Leer
Somebody Else’s World: An Interview with Kelly Reichardt
Robert Fisk
What Trump is Doing in the Middle East While You are Distracted by COVID-19
Daniel Warner
COVID-19: Health or Wealth?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
Corona in Germany: Hording and Authoritarianism
Ramzy Baroud
BJP and Israel: Hindu Nationalism is Ravaging India’s Democracy
Richard Moser
Russia-gate: the Dead But Undead
Ron Jacobs
Politics, Pandemics and Trumpism
Chris Gilbert
Letter From Catalonia: Alarming Measures
Richard Eskow
Seven Rules for the Boeing Bailout
Jonathan Carp
Coronavirus and the Collapse of Our Imaginations
Andrew Bacevich
The Coronavirus and the Real Threats to American Safety and Freedom
Peter Cohen
COVID-19, the Exponential Function and Human the Survival
César Chelala - Alberto Luis Zuppi
The Pope is Wrong on Argentina
James Preston Allen
Alexander Cockburn Meets Charles Bukowski at a Sushi Bar in San Pedro
Jérôme Duval
The Only Oxygen Cylinder Factory in Europe is Shut down and Macron Refuses to Nationalize It
Neve Gordon
Gaza Has Been Under Siege for Years. Covid-19 Could Be Catastrophic
Alvaro Huerta
To Survive the Coronavirus, Americans Should Learn From Mexicans
Prabir Purkayastha
Why the Coronavirus Pandemic Poses Fundamental Challenges to All Societies
Raouf Halaby
Fireside Chatterer Andrew Cuomo for President
Thomas Drake
The Sobering Realities of the American Dystopia
Negin Owliaei
Wash Your Hands…If You Have Water
Felice Pace
A New Threat to California’s Rivers:  Will the Rush to Develop Our Newest Water Source Destroy More Streams?
Ray Brescia
What 9/11 Can Teach Us About Responding to COVID-19
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Covid-19 Opportunity
John Kendall Hawkins
An Age of Intoxication: Pick Your Poison
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Propaganda Virus: Is Anyone Immune?
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 1: Dispatches From a Terrified Heartland
Nolan Higdon – Mickey Huff
Don’t Just Blame Trump for the COVID-19 Crisis: the U.S. Has Been Becoming a Failed State for Some Time
Susan Block
Coronavirus Spring
David Yearsley
Lutz Alone
CounterPunch News Service
Letter from Truthdig’s Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer to the Publisher Zuade Kaufman
CounterPunch News Service
Statement From Striking Truthdig Workers
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail