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Brazil: Families left homeless, threatened by gunmen

Four community leaders, namely José Santana, Nena Rodrigues do Nascimento, João Rosa de Souza Filho and Antonio Gaspar Ribeiro, along with 60 families in rural communities in Maranhão have been forcibly evicted, threatened and “marked down for death”.

The families from two rural communities in the state of Maranhão, northeast Brazil, were left homeless and landless after being forcibly evicted by Maranhão police. The community Campo da Bandeira has also been threatened and intimidated by gunmen patrolling the area.

Wednesday 13 November 2013 witnessed the forced eviction of 45 families from the Campo da Bandeira community and 15 from the Arame community.  The communities were thus rendered homeless and landless following an order by the Maranhão Court of First Instance.  The authorities failed to give adequate notice to the families, allowing them only a few hours to leave their homes and land in spite of a pending appeal by the communities against the eviction order.

Despite the fact that the land inhabited by the two communities has been the subject of an ownership dispute between the state of Maranhão and a private entity, coupled with the fact that the Land Institute of the State of Maranhão has been simultaneously engaged in a land entitlement process that involves the settlement of claims of communities occupying the land, the families were still evicted.

Not only did the authorities fail to provide adequate notice to the communities, other safeguards such as opportunities for genuine consultations with affected people were also denied. The families had nowhere to go and are currently staying in the headquarters of the Rural Workers Union of Alto Alegre municipality.

The land entitlement process has been completed for the Arame community and is near completion for Campo da Bandeira. However on 14 October 2013, a vigilante group of five men subjected the Campo da Bandeira community to an arson attack which destroyed the community’s homes and crops. The police have failed to conduct adequate investigations into the threats and attacks despite numerous complaints. The authorities have also failed to provide any protection to guarantee the community’s safety.

According to information received, four community leaders, José Santana, Nena Rodrigues do Nascimento, João Rosa de Souza Filho, and Antonio Gaspar Ribeiro, have received direct death threats by unidentified gunmen operating in the area.

Please write immediately in English, Portuguese or your own language:

  • Urging the authorities to investigate thoroughly the attacks against the community Campo da Bandeira and the threats to the four community members “marked down for death” and to guarantee their safety;
  • Calling on them to provide emergency adequate housing for the families who were forcibly evicted;
  • Calling on them to ensure that the forcibly evicted families are allowed to return to their land in safety and dignity, provided with assistance to rebuild their homes and protected from further attacks until the conclusion of the land entitlement judicial process;
  • Calling on them to ensure a swift and transparent conclusion to the land entitlement process in the region so as to prevent conflict over land in rural areas in the state of Maranhão.

Please write to:
Governor of Maranhão State
Roseana Sarney
Palácio dos Leões
Av. Dom Pedro II s/nº, Centro
São Luis, Maranhão
CEP: 65010-904, Brazil
Fax: 0055 98 2108 9084
Salutation: Dear Governor / Exma. Sra. Governadora

Minister of Rural Development
Gilberto José Spier Vargas
Ministério do Desenvolvimento Agrário
Esplanada dos Ministérios
Bloco A / Ala Norte Brasília – DF
CEP: 70050-902, Brazil
Fax: 0055 61 2020 0057
Salutation: Dear Minister / Exmo. Sr. Ministro

FETAEMA – Federação dos Trabalhadores e Trabalhadoras Rurais do Maranhão
Rua Antônio Rayol 642
Centro, São Luís, Maranhão
CEP: 65015-040, Brazil
Fax: 0055 98 3219 8704

Pklease also send a copy of your letter to:
His Excellency Roberto Jaguaribe,
Embassy of Brazil,
14-16 Cockspur Street,
London. SW1Y 5BL  
Fax: 020 7399 9100  
Tel: 020 77474500  

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