The MST takes to the streets against amnesty for coup plotters, asserting that ‘Democracy must be consolidated

João Paulo Rodrigues says the left will not accept granting pardon for those who participated on the January 8 attack
MST national leader João Paulo Rodrigues. Foto: Guilherme Santos/Sul21

Igor Carvalho e José Eduardo Bernardes
Brasil de Fato

The new political flag of Bolsonarism has become a request for amnesty for the coup plotters who stormed and vandalized public buildings in Brasília on January 8, 2023. On February 25 this year, in a far-right demonstration in São Paulo, former President Jair Bolsonaro from the Liberal Party (PL, in Portuguese) made it clear that he intends to work so that a pardon can be granted for his followers and himself.  

In response, the organizations Brasil Popular and Povo Sem Medo (People Without Fear, in English) called a demonstration on March 23 to demand that no amnesty be granted to the coup plotters.  

“We, from the Brazilian left, will not accept this amnesty request. It is absurd because of the crimes they committed while they were ruling the country and when they were already out. They were very serious from a legal and political point of view,” stated João Paulo Rodrigues, leader of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST, in Portuguese), in an interview with Brasil de Fato.  

For Rodrigues, granting amnesty to the coup plotters of January 8 precisely in the year Brazil remembers the six decades since the 1964 military coup would show that the country has learned nothing from the pardon it granted to the military in 1978.

“The Brazilian amnesty did not end the debate about a new project for the Armed Forces. On the contrary, 30 years later, it allowed Bolsonarists to occupy the Armed Forces structure and try to carry out a coup again,” pointed out the MST leader.

Read the full interview:

Brasil de Fato: In his speech during the February 25 event on Paulista Avenue, Jair Bolsonaro spoke about “pacifying the country”. To do so, he said, it would be necessary to grant amnesty to the January 8“rioters”. What is your opinion about a possible bill that provides for the amnesty of the January 8 coup plotters?  

João Paulo Rodrigues: We, from the Brazilian left, will not accept this amnesty request. It is absurd because the crimes they committed while ruling the country and also those after they were already out were very serious from a legal and political point of view. Therefore, our fight in the National Congress and the press is to reject such a barbarism. It would legalize going against the best thing we have right now: a democratic regime for Brazil. Therefore, our answer is “no” to amnesty. Let justice reach them.  

If the project succeeds, military personnel will be part of the people who will benefit from it. This year, 20 days from today, we will remember the 60th anniversary of the military coup, which also ended in amnesty. Is it possible to connect the two subjects?  

No doubt. The Brazilian amnesty did not end the debate over a new project for the Armed Forces. On the contrary, 30 years later, it allowed Bolsonarists to occupy the Armed Forces structure and attempt a coup again. What is more serious than this? And with the support of the military. The amnesty of the past did not help the country at all. It covered up crimes and created a new generation of coup plotters. Therefore, we cannot give a new opportunity to coup plotters. Democracy in Brazil must be consolidated.  

The left called a huge manifestation for April 23 in São Paulo. Is it a response to the amnesty request?  

No, it is the start of the popular mobilizations we are doing, and one of the subjects is the call against the pardon grant. The demonstrations will happen all over the country. They will meet the demonstrations of March 8 and the mobilizations being prepared for May 1st. It is a clear way for people’s movements to demonstrate strength through mobilization. This demonstration on April 23 doesn’t intend to be bigger, equal or smaller than other demonstrations made by us at previous moments or much less than the Bolsonarists. Streets have always been the stage for the left, and we cannot abandon them. We want to carry out two big national acts: one in São Paulo and another probably in Salvador.  

Part of the left did not accept the act on April 23 very well, because it would oppose the act of the Bolsonarists on Paulista Avenue. Valter Pomar says the left must go to the street to mark space. Do you agree with him?  

We are very concerned because people from the government, outside the government, and from the left do not want to go to the streets. That worries me because it is not part of the left’s history to stay at home fighting for remote control. Our tradition is to go to the streets with five or thousands of people. We invited the government to participate in our meetings; we even invited President Lula.  

April is right around the corner, a month during which the MST take to the streets, dubbed “Red April”. What is the movement planning for this year? 

This April will be a struggle, and the central theme will be to demand the federal government about Agrarian Reform. We have been without settlements for a while. Last year was very bad for Agrarian Reform, since it was not in the government’s budget. But this year, we have high expectations. We hope the government uses the opportunity to make announcements.  

We have 60,000 families that need to be settled this year. Now, we know about the government’s autonomy regarding people’s movements, and the government knows about our autonomy. Therefore, we will carry out occupations, marches and walks, as we have always done, denouncing unproductive large estates and moving forward to reach the popular Agrarian Reform. 

In 2022, the MST elected six parliamentarians, among federal and state deputies. Now, in 2024, does the movement intend to maintain this political approach and bet on its own candidacies for the legislature? How do you evaluate the experience of 2022, after two years of the current terms?  

Our movement continues to struggle for Agrarian Reform, but this period requires that we fight for other spaces, especially in the Legislative and Executive. Therefore, the MST will reinforce the campaign for candidates, councilors, and mayors. The MST is in a thousand municipalities. We must dispute these territories. 

*Edited by: Matheus Alves de Almeida