Brazilian official wants landless activists treated as terrorists

MST protest

Brazil’s far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro will seek to classify “invasions” of farmland by landless workers as akin to terrorism, with harsher penalties for the activists, an Agriculture Ministry official said on January 14.

Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), one of Latin America’s largest social movements, seeks to take over unproductive lands in the name of social and economic justice to more equally distribute rural wealth.

Luiz Antonio Nabhan Garcia, land issues secretary at the ministry, said: “It is the challenge of this government to demonstrate to Congress that this is a thing very close to terrorism, or it could be said in some circumstances is terrorism, and to have a more severe application of the law.”

Garcia founded the far-right Democratic Rural Union in 1985 to oppose land reform and stop land take-overs. His newly created Secretariat of land issues is expected to allow vested interests to exploit the Indigenous population and bring environmental disaster to the Amazon. 

Garcia was responding to a land invasion in the northern state of Para, the first clash under Bolsonaro’s presidency. He argued that hundreds of such invasions are underway around the country — one of the most unequal of the region in terms of land distribution. 

Watchdog groups say that police, often under the sway of powerful local landowners, frequently get away with bloodshed against landless activists.

Garcia also offered the government’s support to foreign investors interested in buying land in Brazil, a prohibited practice that would require legalisation by Congress.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]