Reports from East Timor and Brazil

Dear Comrade Cassia,

Just back from Los Palos, Narciso my adopted son was getting married, went up to participate in the traditional ceremony. Sad to see this email when I got back, do you have any further news on the arrests?

Things are still very bad in Dili, there are hardly any Loro Sae people living here now – displaced peoples camps still attacked daily while the internationals (really mean the ADF) look on.. While I was in Los Palos an armed gang attacked one camp, am told six people were hurt, two people were killed. The gang were well organised and came in vehicles from the hills behind Dili.

This week a delegation from the displaced people living near the airport went to see Ramos – Horto about attacks on their camp, indeed about attacks and lack of security all over Dili.. Am told that the ADF went into the camp at the airport last weekend, arrested six people,(don’t know why they were arrested at the moment). Apparently 2 people were punched by members of the ADF. The delegation wanted to know why people who are already facing daily intimidation from gangs have to face this kind of behaviour from people who are supposed to be protecting them. Ramos-Horto declined to comment. – this one actually made the TV news so guess no one can accuse me of sending out an inflammatory email! However, I will be going to the airport this morning to speak to the people concerned, hopefully be able to send update later, but also had news from England that my Dad is in hospital, trying to decide what to do.

Did you know that Reinaldo and 56 of his men had escaped from prison and are now hold up in the hills?

Hope Jaime Amorim has been released – and join you in calling for justice for Josias de Barros Ferreira and Samuel Mattias Barbosa, guess we keep up the struggle.

Love Lidia

On 26/08/06, cassia bechara wrote:

COMRADES,

THE SITUATION HERE IN PERNAMBUCO IS VERY COMPLICATED RIGHT NOW. MST PEAPLE ARE BEING KILLED, IMPRISIONED AND PERSECUTED. I’M SENDING YOU SOME INFO RELEASED BY GRASSROOTS INTERNATIONAL WEBBLOG ABOUT THE SITUATION.
LOVE
CASSIA

Leaders of the MST assassinated, imprisoned in Pernambuco

Earlier this week, while Saulo Araujo and I were visiting our partners at Polo Sindical, hearing about the long history of violent struggles there to re-settle families displaced by the a series of large hydro-electric dam projects (including some families that still have not been resettled 20 years later) we received news that two leaders of the MST were assassinated at an encampment in greater Recife, Pernambuco. The encampment was on land that a local gas company wanted to use for a gas pipeline, and it appears that the company hired thugs to infiltrate the encampment to try to encourage the people in the encampment to accept a cash settlement to leave the land.

“We don’t want want money, we want land,” said Cassia Bechara, “so the encamped people refused the offer. Josias Barros, a state leaders of the MST who was working in the encampment said, ‘The flag of the MST will only leave this land over my dead body,’ and one of the infiltrators shot him dead”. Samuel Matias Barboça, another leader of the movement in Pernambuco, was also killed.

Since then, the state police for in Pernambuco have not managed to arrest the gunmen who commited these murders, but they have arrested several leaders of the MST, including local leaders of an encampent in Sertânia and Jaime Amorim, one of the national coordinator of the movement.

Aton Fon, one of the co-directors of Grassroots’ partner REDE-SOCIAL, a national network of human rights lawyers who defend the rights of activists and memebers of social movements throughout the country, has arrived in Recife to assist in the legal work underway to demand the release of Jaime Almorim, who is being held because of his participation in a protest against Prsident Bush’s visit to Brazil last November. His arrest is based on a law to protect the public order that was created during the military dictatorship to repress dissent.

Grassroots joins the MST and REDE in demanding the release of Jaime Almorim and the prosecution of the assassination of Josias Barros Ferreira and Samuel Matias Barboça.

Saulo and I are going now to try to visit Jaime in jail.

I will write more as soon as I have a chance.

Social Movement Faces Violent Repression in Brazil
This morning I accompanied Fernando Prioste, an attorney for the Brazilian human rights organizaton Terra de Direitos (Land of Rights), to visit Jaime Amorim at the Centro de Triagem pre-trial detention center in Abreu e Lima on the outskirts of Recife, in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco.

Jaime is the state coordinator for the Grassroots’ partner Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Pernambuco, and a member of the national leadership of the movement. He was arrested August 21 while he was travelling between the funerals of two leaders of the MST, Josias de Barros Ferreira and Samuel Matias Barbosa, who were assasinated the previous day in what is reported to have been a dispute over the land of the encampment with a company that wanted to install a gas pipeline.

Jaime’s arrest appears to be politically motivated and arbitrary. Some believe it was carried out in order to distract attention from the assassination of two MST leaders. Jaime was charged with failing to appear at a hearing to investigate his participation in a protest againstU.S. President George Bush’s visit to Brazil in November, 2005.

Jaime never received notification of the hearing, and the judge in the case claims that this was because Jaime has no fixed address. This claim is clearly untrue, and easily disproven. As a registered voter in Pernambuco, Jaime’s address is on file with the state. It appears the judge never sent a request to the electoral authorities to obtain the address. There is also the fact that Jaime is a visible public figure and as such is usually easy to find.

The movement’s legal advisors, including Fernando Prioste and Atom Fon (co-director of Grassroots’ partner, Rede Social de Diretors Humanos [The Social Network for Human Rights], an organization that provides legal support for members of Brazilian social movements) have petitioned for a writ of Habeas Corpus and are appealing to the federal courts to declare the arrest illegal, based on the fact that the judge never tried to get Jaime’s address. The judge suggested in an interview that he will release Jaime on Monday, but as the judge has taken this week off for vacation, it is unlikely that anything will happen before then.

When we saw Jaime today he said that going to jail was just another part of building the movement. He ate an apple that Fernando brought him voracioulsy, but he he appeared to be in good spirits and made light of the fact that some of his wealthy fellow inmates have air-conditioners and big-screen televisions.

I asked Jaime what the significance of his arrest was for the movement.

“The arrest occured at a moment of great sadness for the movement, when we were mourning the loss of two companheiros,” he said. “Josias was a great leader in the movement who was very active in developing the culture and values of the MST, and Samuel was a great yound leader and long-time member whose parents were members and activists. He grew up in the movement. To execute the warrant at that moment was a provocation. In the struggle for agrarian reform, we try our best to operate within the laws of the land and the spirit of justice, but the state wants to brand us as criminals. They want to make it illegal for us to demand our rights.”

A coalition of social movements and civil-society groups has mobilized to demand Jaime’s release and to demand justice for the killers of Josias Ferreira and Samuel Barbosa. These events, along with the arrest of a two other local leaders of the MST in the town of Sertania, here in Pernambuco, and a series of illegal evictions of encamped families, reinforce the idea that it is essential to combine protection of human rights with movement building and community-led development.

Grassroots is proud to support the MST and Rede Social and to join them in calling for the release of Jaime Amorim and for justice for the assassins of Josias de Barros Ferreira and Samuel Mattias Barbosa.

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