Eviction at Quilombo Campo Grande encampment (MG) lights up an alert during pandemic

Special report on the current situation of camps and settlements in the southeast region

In São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Landless fear repossession processes suspended due to the coronavirus. Photo: MST/Minas Gerais

Por Redação da Região Sudeste/ MST
Da Página do MST

After 56 hours of resistance, accompanied by numerous demonstrations of national and international support and solidarity, on Friday August 14th the Military Police of Minas Gerais evicted one of the areas of the Camp Quilombo Campo Grande, demolishing the homes of 14 peasant families, crops and the Popular School Eduardo Galeano.

Known for the production of Guaií coffee, the Quilombo Campo Grande encampment, located in Campo do Meio (MG), is formed by 450 families, who for more than 20 years have produced food without poison. Landless families demand justice to guarantee the right to agrarian reform on the land of the former Ariadnópolis sugarcane plant, which went bankrupt leaving debts owed to the state and workers.

In a statement, the state leadership of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) condemned the fact that the area of 26 hectares initially found in the judicial process, which were already unoccupied, was expanded to 52 hectares in the last order of the Agrarian Court and the police operation went beyond that determined by the injunction, pitting itself against the interests of the people and promoting the escalation of violence in the countryside , aggravated by the health and economic crisis of Covid-19.

According to the MST, with the action initiated Wednesday August 12th, Romeo Zema (Novo-MG) and other judicial authorities have failed to comply with the agreement signed at a dialogue on land conflicts, that families could remain in place at least as long as there is a need for social isolation because of the pandemic. Bishop Vicente Ferreira, auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Belo Horizonte, stated that “it is inadmissible to evict during the pandemic, there is no argument that justifies this violation of fundamental human rights. Respect for the dignity of the human person is a basic principle of the Brazilian Constitution,” said the bishop.

Faced with the crowds caused by the cruel police action, the families of the Quilombo Campo Grande encampment filed a request for mass testing and social assistance. However, none of the families had a response from the government up to this point.

For Michelle Capuchinho, of the State Directorate of the MST, “since the beginning of the criminal operation, we tried to dialogue with the state government, condemning that it was a crime to carry out an eviction in the midst of the pandemic. We understand that this government is criminal, and the city hall that is under the management of Robson de Sá is co-author of this atrocity, endangering the entire Campo do Meio and Sul de Minas”.

Rio de Janeiro

The case of Quilombo Campo Grande is not isolated and reveals a broader scenario of repeated attempts at forced removal in the southeastern region of Brazil. In addition to the risk to thousands of peasant families, since many evictions resort to police violence, this context is even more serious in the face of the public health crisis in the country.

The use of police force was authorized by the Federal Court of Rio de Janeiro in August 2019 to execute the eviction in the Sustainable Development Project (PSD) Osvaldo de Oliveira, in the serrana region of Macaé (RJ). It is the first of this kind in the state, located in the recovery area of the Atlantic Forest. Beans, corn, pumpkin, watermelon, jiló, banana, coconut, soursop, aipim and vegetables are some of the products grown.

Sustainable Development Project (PSD) Osvaldo de Oliveira, in the serrana region of Macaé (RJ). Photo: MST File

With the pandemic, the deadline initially set at 90 days for removal was suspended. “It is a completely controversial framework because the settlement is consolidated. There are 63 families producing agroecological foods, we have participation in markets and the School Feeding Program (PNAE),” says Nelson Bernardes, from the National Directorate of the MST in Rio de Janeiro, explaining that the permanence of families has proven relevance in the environmental conservation of the area.

“Sustainable Development Project families went through a very extensive process of training in agroecology, assimilating a fundamental matrix for environmental production and preservation. The judge has a biased view because he bases the decision only by reading the opinions of the owner”, reports the lawyer of the human rights sector of MST-RJ, Fernanda Vieira.

Formerly known as Fazenda Bom Jardim, the Osvaldo de Oliveira settlement is located in the Córrego do Ouro district, in the northern region of Rio de Janeiro. The property was considered unproductive by Incra in 2010, being decreed for agrarian reform purposes. In the same year, about 300 MST families occupied the farm’s land on September 7, with the aim of pressuring the expropriation that has not yet been completely completed.

Sao Paulo

The state of São Paulo mobilized throughout the day performing solidarity actions, as in Jardinópolis. Photo: Filipe Augusto Peres

Recently, the State Council for the Defense of the Rights of the Human Person (Condepe) condemned the repossessions that are ongoing throughout the state of São Paulo in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. In a letter published on June 16, Condepe cites 24 cases that occurred or are in progress throughout the state.

In the state of São Paulo, three areas fighting for agrarian reform are being suspended indefinitely. They are the Camp Marielle Vive!, located in Valinhos, the Camp Paulo Botelho, in the municipality of Jardinópolis, and the Luiz Beltrame settlement in Gaul, which received the suspension on July 29 by order of the Federal Regional Court of São Paulo (TRF).

Located 60 km from Bauru, in the interior of the state, the Luiz Beltrame settlement has existed for about six years as judicially recognized territory. In 2014, Portal Paraíso and Santa Fe farms were expropriated from businessman Jorge Ivan Cassaro for environmental crime and lack of productivity, in favor of the 77 Landless families who, in 2009, began their struggle for land.

On that land the produced cassava, sweet potatoes, corn, beans, passion fruit, among other grains, fruits and foliage, as well as animal production and derivatives such as milk and cheese. Every week, more than 100 agroecological baskets are sold in Bauru, Marília and region.

In the Paulo Botelho camp, the families occupy an area of the former Rede Ferroviária Federal S.A. (RFFSA) administered by the Secretariat of The Heritage Union (SPU), previously illegally used by companies for the production of sugarcane and as a dump for agro-industrial tailings. To the risk of eviction, they add criminal actions and intimidation provoked by third parties.

In a letter published on June 16, Condepe denounced the arson that occurred on April 28 at Camp Paulo Botelho, a fact that opens suspicions about possible intentionality in the fire that happened on the afternoon of Thursday August 13, which affected some of the shacks of families camped.

Zero Despejo

Photo: Collective Communication MG

According to Condepe, the Covid-19 pandemic dramatically demonstrates the deep social inequalities in Brazilian society. Contrary to reintegrations, the agency emphasizes the existence of notes in the Constitution that protect the dignity of the human person and that justifies the non-removal of families “as long as the necessary measures of social isolation and coping with the disease persist.”

Faced with the lack of responsibility of some sectors of the public power with the guarantee of the most fundamental human rights in relation to evictions and removals during the pandemic, more than 40 social organizations and popular movements launched the campaign “Zero Eviction – For Life in the Countryside and in the City”.

The initiative, composed of more than 100 popular movements, entities and social organizations, denounced at the United Nations (UN) the destruction of the school and the withdrawal of families from Quilombo Campo Grande (MG).

On social media, the campaign against removal mobilized hashtags #SalveQuilombo #DespejoZero and #ZemaCovarde. After the operation, which included about 200 armed police, vehicles and helicopters, the movement seeks support in the solidarity of the population to collectively rebuild the structure of the school and the affected houses.

*Edited by Fernanda Alcântara