Return to the fazenda and
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 Brazil goes back to an

BRAZIL GOES BACK TO AN OLIGARCHIC PAST

Return to the fazenda and gaucho whip — Post Lula, post Dilma Rousseff, power has shifted to powerful landowners aggressively asserting their rights over land they don’t use but don’t want to lose, and politically motivated violence is up

Anne Vigna

Since Congress removed President Dilma Rousseff in 2016 – in what the left called a ‘parliamentary coup’ – Brazil seems to have reconnected with a past many hoped was consigned to history. It is that of a country run by colonels and bandeirantes, powerful local figures who used violence against all who crossed them: the left, the poor, and the ‘landless’ occupiers of unused land which, according to the constitution, should be redistributed through agrarian reform.

Brazil will commemorate the 130th anniversary of its abolition of slavery on 13 May, yet a hated symbol of that era, the whip, reappeared on television screens when landowners used them on 22 March against members of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) waiting to see former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s motorcade. Senator Ana Amélia Lemos of the rightwing Partido Progressista expressed unabashed support for these ‘true gauchos who raised their whips’.

Lula, who has been in prison since 7 April, was able to travel throughout Brazil unimpeded during a political career of over 50 years. But this March he encountered blockades organised by armed militias using tractors, stones and rifles to hamper his campaign to mobilise opposition to his 12-year sentence for ‘passive corruption’. The sentence has been condemned not only by the left, but also by 122 Brazilian legal experts, who have published articles suggesting the charge was based more on the judge’s prejudices than hard evidence.

The police investigation into shots fired at Lula’s motorcade on 27 March has revealed they came from Leandro Bonotto’s fazenda (plantation). Since the 1990s, Bonotto has vehemently opposed the MST and land reclamation by the National Institute for Colonisation and Agrarian Reform (Incra), a federal government body. The source of the gunshots was not a surprise: associations of big landowners openly advocate violence against the MST.

Gedeão Ferreira, who heads the agriculture federation in Rio Grande do Sul, said when he took office: ‘We’re going to confront the MST and Incra. The sole aim of their occupations is to deprive rural producers of their properties.’ Ferreira denied Incra officials access to his property and was jailed in 2002 for ignoring the law and inciting criminal behaviour. He was released in 2003 by the regional federal court of Porto Alegre (TRF4), the body that convicted Lula on appeal.

Lunch with the ruralists (aneex insert)

A group of wealthy agribiz owners get to make self-enriching policy affecting millions because they backed the overthrow of Dilma Rousseff.

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