Troops bulldoze homes, leave thousands homeless
Soldiers wearing U.N. logos evict whole towns in land grab
By Alex Newman
Thousands of poor Brazilian families are living in wretched conditions at make-shift refugee camps after being evicted from their homes at gunpoint by federal forces, some of whom were sporting United Nations logos, according to sources.
The massive operation, which left an estimated 7,500 or more people, including thousands of children, homeless was justified by authorities under the guise of creating an Indian reservation.
Towns literally have been wiped off the map, and no compensation was offered to the victims. About 400,000 acres of land were expropriated in the latest operation.
Residents in the Siua-Missu area in the state of Mato Grosso battled heavily armed federal police and military forces for weeks using sticks, rocks, Molotov cocktails and other crude weapons.
In the end, however, the powerful national government forces were overwhelming.
Virtually all of the residents have now been displaced, living in squalor, packed into school gymnasiums in nearby towns. Others are living on charity under plastic tarps propped up with sticks with no clean water or sewage services.
Leaders of the feeble resistance, meanwhile, are being hunted down by authorities for punishment.
It was in 1993, shortly after the first United Nations summit on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro, when the scheme was proposed. The Brazilian government’s executive branch decreed that the land in question belonged to Indians.
“These areas are marked off with rushed studies by leftist anthropologists, ideological and hardly scientific,” Fernando Furquim with the Movement for Peace in the Countryside, a non-profit organization that supports private property rights, told WND.
“The conflicts between the productive sector and Indians are assuming greater proportions,” he added. “Countless non-governmental organizations have appeared, many from abroad, to involve themselves in the question.”
Brazilian officials, meanwhile, sent WND an error-riddled statement containing claims that victims were not entitled to compensation but that some would be re-settled elsewhere if they qualified under the “agrarian reform” program.
Authorities also told WND that the U.N. was not involved in the eviction efforts but that the organization’s logos were on the military equipment and personnel because they had recently returned from “peace-keeping” abroad.
In Suia-Missu, legal battles ensued after the executive decree as property owners with valid deeds to their land fought back. Many of the residents have lived in the area for decades, and some were born there.
Their properties were mostly purchased as larger farms in the area and sold off in pieces in recent decades. Some were inherited from relatives.
The Brazilian courts eventually ruled that the forced evictions could proceed, so in November, residents were given 30 days to vacate their land.
Most refused to leave, but heavily armed Brazilian troops and federal police were too powerful for the poor farmers in the area to resist.
“The evicted victims are now living at schools in Alto da Boa Vista and camps, with some being sheltered by relatives,” Naves Bispo, a local resident and victim of the land-grab scheme, told WND, adding that the situation was dire and deteriorating.
“None of the people were relocated by the government, despite the government’s lies,” he noted. “There never existed a plan for these people, there was just an expulsion: brief, brutal and grotesque.”
Like other victims and analysts who spoke with WND, Bispo was unsure about why Brazilian authorities had decided to create an Indian reservation on land that was never occupied by Indians and was already lawfully owned.
Official documents obtained by WND show that in the 1970s, the National Indian Foundation, part of the Brazilian Justice Ministry, twice confirmed that Indians had never lived on the land in question.
“I know and feel that we are once again in a dictatorial state run by followers of Fidel, of Mao, of Che,” Bispo continued, pointing to the ruling Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT) and its well-documented links to tyrannical regimes in the region.
“This is terror against the poor, a strongly surging plague, very organized, an affront to democracy in the Americas,” he added. “I lost my land, my work area, but I will never lose my ideals.”
While the press was barred from documenting much of the battle, local news reports showed the true extent of the human tragedy. Many critics have said it constitutes forced relocation, a crime against humanity under international agreements.
Gas station owner Arnaldo da Costa, reportedly the first person to be notified of the evictions, lamented the situation in a TV interview.
“This is the worst day of my life, the worst in my 53 years,” he said. “I told the guy to find a place for us, show me where we’re supposed to go.”
Another man interviewed for the same segment started his grocery store 30 years ago and was set to lose his life’s work if forced to leave.
Meanwhile, authorities would not even let farmers pick their own crops, a young student told the interviewer.
“We planted over 100 acres of rice that they won’t let us harvest, we wasted 90,000 Brazilian reals ($45,000), and they simply will not let us harvest it,” she said, crying. “Sad, very sad, sad, lots of anguish, lots of suffering.”
Some residents, though, were defiant.
“I am going to stay here until I die,” Eliezer Rocha told a TV news crew. “I prefer to be killed by a bullet than to die of a broken heart later without a place to live, without a place to work.”
The sentiment was widespread as poverty-stricken locals, on the verge of losing their only means of subsistence and virtually all of their property, tried to keep federal forces at bay with improvised weapons and mass demonstrations.
Some residents burned Brazilian flags while others organized patrols, in vain, to chase the police and military away.
Local politicians, state lawmakers and even federal members of the Brazilian Congress spoke out as well.
“Ten people were injured in this clash,” Brazilian Sen. Jayme Campos from Mato Grosso was quoted as saying in Brazilian media reports after one of the many battles that raged between residents and federal troops.
“Any and all aggression by government forces will correspond inevitably with a violent reaction from the community,” he said.
Drawing attention to the thousands of people being forcibly evicted with no place to go, Campos said they were doing nothing but waging “a desperate fight to maintain the achievements of their entire life’s work, sweat, and sacrifices.”
To defuse the situation and prevent deaths, the senator called for a temporary suspension of the evictions and a change in the Constitution that would allow lawmakers to have some control over the executive branch’s currently unilateral establishment of “Indian lands” wherever it chooses.
The “extreme measures” being pursued by authorities, he said, were inappropriate.
“These rural farmers are willing to do anything: to kill and be killed,” Sen. Campos observed. “A tragedy can happen at any moment.”
His pleas, along with those of fellow lawmakers, fell on deaf ears.
By Jan. 18, Brazilian authorities claimed that the entire area had been “cleared.”
Many of the structures – homes, churches, schools, a hospital, playgrounds, farms and more – were already bulldozed. The rest will be razed soon.
“This is a real shame what is going on here,” local property owner Paulo Gonçalves, whose land was also expropriated, told WND in a phone interview. “A great injustice is being committed against these people. They have nowhere to go, no plan.”
Another local resident, who did not respond to a request for permission to use his name by press time, told a similar story.
“My father had 2,000 hectares in the region and lost everything,” the young man told WND. “He had six employees who worked directly or indirectly on the farm, and today they are living on charity and almost suffering from hunger and have had not any help from the federal government.”
Local media reports showed tearful residents telling reporters their whole world had come crashing down in an instant.
“We’re looking for a place to go, I still don’t know. Everybody left here without knowing where they were going to go,” Juvenil Moreira, a local farmer, said as tears ran down his face.
“It wasn’t voluntary. They came and threatened us. The feds already came in my house two times and threatened me, saying that if I didn’t leave, they were going to confiscate all of my possessions,” he added. “I told them I didn’t have anywhere to go but they don’t want to hear it.”
“There hasn’t been a single person who has been re-settled by government agencies –not a single person,” Moreira explained, contradicting government claims that it would assist certain small farmers as part of its “agrarian reform” policy.
Another local farmer, Mamede Jordao, said a federal officer had threatened to take him in a helicopter and throw him out if he continued to speak out against the evictions.
The communities’ were also forced to leave all of their dead behind in graveyards that includes plots decades old.
Combined, residents of the area also owned hundreds of thousands of cows. Now they have nowhere to put them.
Much livestock was left behind, too, as locals tried to save whatever animals – dogs, cats, chickens – that they could take with them to their new refugee camp “homes.”
Some help has arrived.
Christian preachers from hundreds of miles away have been gathering tons of food and assistance from their congregations to ship to the displaced victims.
Concerned citizens throughout the region have been donating, too. And towns in the area have tried their best to help shelter as many families as possible with the few resources available to them.
At least one local businessman has also promised to donate some land so people can rebuild their homes and try to eke out a meager living from the soil once again.
One of the town people found temporary refuge in Alto da Boa Vista, where Mayor Nezip Domingues promised to help despite his people’s lack of resources.
He thanked all of the concerned citizens in the region who sent assistance.
“In truth, if it was not for the actions that these groups and society are taking – they are so moved by the situation in Siua Missu – we don’t know what we would have done,” Domingues said in a TV interview.
“Our municipality does not have the resources to attend to these necessities, so we’re thankful from our hearts for everybody who has helped these families,” he added.
Sources told WND that the people would be eternally grateful to God and to the pastors and congregations for the help being provided by Christians in the region.
However, the refugees also feel a sense of humiliation. Once independent, they now must depend on donations just to feed their own children.
Locals are still petitioning the government to undo the relocation, which they say has shattered thousands of lives, by returning the land and offering compensation for the loss of their houses.
A few still cling to a small ray of hope, thinking God may intervene or that the federal government will realize the error of its ways.
“There’s a small ray of hope, but it exists,” farmer Romão Flor told TV Araguaia in an interview after detailing the miserable living conditions evicted residents are suffering.
“However, the government is very strong, the Indian agency is very strong, the pressure from foreign interests is very strong, and the NGOs are very strong,” he said.
“It won’t be easy.”
Others, however, have all but given up after seeing what remains of their former hardscrabble towns and homes.
“I just got back from there, to see what had become of [the town of] Posto da Mata. It’s over,” sobbed a young mother and small farmer named Maria da Costa from her new “home” in a school gym, shared by eight other families. She broke down into tears before finishing her thought.
An elderly woman next to her, also crying, added: “They destroyed our people. Our whole world is destroyed.”
Brazilian officials told WND that the land in question had traditionally been occupied by the Xavante Indian tribe, which was expelled from nearby areas in the 1960s by government forces so settlers could move in.
However, numerous documents obtained by WND, and testimony from Xavante Indians, show that the tribe never occupied the land in question.
One Xavante Indian, for example, speaking at a local rally, blasted FUNAI for seizing the lands, saying the agency was operating at the expense of Indians and expropriating property in their name, but that it was not interested in the truth.
“They know that the Xavantes live in the cerrado (savannah-type region as opposed to forest) and that you’re living here,” the elderly Indian exclaimed.
“Now, help,” he continued, pointing his finger in the faces of some government officials at the gathering. “Give back everything you’ve stolen from the Indians and from the whole human race.”
Turning to the crowd again, he concluded: “We want to stay in our place, and you stay in yours.”
A Brazilian congressional delegation that visited the area quoted four Xavantes who all said the same thing: Their tribe has never lived in the area in question.
FUNAI itself admitted as much in the 1970s, twice, when asked by a large landowner for development purposes to certify that no Indians had ever lived there.
The tribe, which consists of around 14,000 members and already has about 3.5 million acres of land in Mato Grosso, was offered a better piece of land by the state government to avoid the forced evictions.
The real reasons
While it is remains unclear whether the U.N. was involved in the most recent forced eviction, the actions are in line with an international agreement on indigenous people, analysts say.
Local rancher Sebastian Prado told reporters that authorities were essentially running an extortion racket seeking millions of dollars in exchange for halting the land grab.
Upon speaking out, he was personally attacked by a top federal official.
“Mr. Sebastian Prado will be prosecuted for his lies against Secretary Paulo Maldos and will pay in the courts for his folly and irresponsibility,” Chief Minister Gilberto Carvalho with the General Secretariat of the President said in a press release.
Numerous other possible motives, however, have also been identified.
Among the most frequently cited: pressure from foreign NGOs like Greenpeace and religious persecution of the conservative and devout evangelical communities there by powerful Catholic “liberation theology” forces.
Victims and analysts who spoke with WND also identified as a probable cause the effort to advance socialism in Brazil and the broader region by eroding property rights and attacking independent citizens like farmers and ranchers, a process that is already well underway in Latin America led in large part by senior PT officials.
Finally, mega-corporations from abroad and foreign governments hoping to extract rare minerals have been cited as well.
United Nations agreement
A little-known U.N. agreement dubbed the “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People,” approved by the global body’s General Assembly in 2007, has been cited as a justification for expropriating the land.
While the U.S. originally rejected the controversial U.N. scheme, which purports to require the surrender of lands “traditionally” occupied by natives, President Obama signed on to it in late 2010.
Last year, in a move that drew a mix of ridicule and alarm from critics, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People James Anaya visited the U.S.
He concluded, among other points, that Mount Rushmore and vast tracts of land should be returned to Native Americans to put the U.S. government closer to compliance with the global agreement.
Several lawmakers contacted by WND were aware of the situation in Brazil, but none were willing to comment publicly about it at this time.
Still, analysts say that with the U.N. and authoritarian-minded governments seeking to exploit past injustices against indigenous people to advance their agenda, the danger will continue to grow – at least without international pressure on Brazilian authorities, who are desperately trying to polish their image on the global stage.
The march of socialism in Latin America, meanwhile, continues, backed by foreign powers and largely under the radar of the Western media.
It is making great progress through the Foro de São Paulo (FSP), a shadowy socialist and communist political organization founded by former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva with the PT, Marxist despot Fidel Castro, the Sandinistas and others.
Marxist narco-terror groups like the FARC have also been intimately involved in the group, including by providing funding from the drug trade to advance the cause.
Today, political parties that are part of the FSP, such as the Brazilian PT, control most national governments in Latin America. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, for example, is a prominent participant, as are other, less-known socialist strongmen.
Current Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, a “former” communist guerrilla and revolutionary, is also playing an increasingly important in the network.