Peasants massacred in Brazil
At least 32 people were killed in Brazil on August 9 when 200 heavily armed anti-riot troops of the militarised police violently evicted landless rural workers from farmland they were occupying in the state of Rondonia.
Two of those killed were police officers. The police were attempting to enforce a judicial eviction order for the 16,000 hectare Santa Helena farm, which belongs to an absentee landlord and was recently occupied by about 500 families.
At least 53 squatters and 11 police officers were injured, and 355 people were detained by police in a nearby town, a state government spokesperson said. According to a report by the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analyses and the National Campaign for Land Reform, it is impossible to know how many died in the incident; there are more than 200 wounded peasants in nearby hospitals, and many others are lost in the bush.
Leaders of the Rondonia Rural Workers Federation say the death toll is more likely to be around 70; this estimate is supported by the Landless Peasant Movement (MST) and the Catholic Church's Pastoral Land Commission.
The MST, a rural workers' organisation which takes over unused estates to speed up official land reform, estimates that 10 million Brazilians need land, and that 46% of arable land belongs to 1% of landowners.
[From Weekly News Update on the Americas.]