“The Sendero Luminoso Is Destroying the Amazon”

Cumarú do Norte, Pará

It is very effective to mobilize mass support against a scapegoated enemy by claiming that the enemy is part of a vast insidious conspiracy against the common good. The conspiracist worldview sees secret plots by tiny cabals of evildoers as the major motor powering important historical events; makes irrational leaps of logic in analyzing factual evidence in order to “prove” connections, blames social conflicts on demonized scapegoats, and constructs a closed metaphysical worldview that is highly resistant to criticism. When conspiracist scapegoating occurs, the results can devastate a society, disrupting rational political discourse and creating targets who are harassed and even murdered. Public Eye, “Conspiracism”

“All good things would come to pass and the Nation, as in a magic trick, would go from economic stagnation to the dreamed-of galloping accumulation of wealth. Through the fantastic lenses of IPES and its filmmaker, workers and owners would live as brothers, because the latter would profit and the former would be certain of beng able to live with a minimum of dignity, in a near-perfect society, Catholic, God-fearing and obedient to the Church.” –ASSIS, Denise. Propaganda e Cinema a Serviço do Golpe (2001) (See Globo on Jean Manzon: The Aesthetic Perfection of Moral-Panic Propaganda)

Fascism is therefore opposed to Socialism to which unity within the State (which amalgamates classes into a single economic and ethical reality) is unknown, and which sees in history nothing but the class struggle. Fascism is likewise opposed to trade unionism as a class weapon. But when brought within the orbit of the State, Fascism recognizes the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which divergent interests are coordinated and harmonized in the unity of the State. –Mussolini, “The Doctrine of Fascism” (1932)

Deputado ruralista apresenta denúncias sobre supostas atuações de milícias no Pará: The Agência Brasil reports on a recent committee session, attended by the federal Justice Minister and the Rural Bloc in the Brazilian congress.

It illustrates, I think, how ugly the issue of agrarian reform can get in rural Brazil.

Mono Mancuso ugly. The sort of issues that got more or less sorted out by the Missouri Compromise, the Civil War, and that whole legal and economic framework that produced the land-grant university, have not been resolved here. It is like a trip backwards in time with Professor Peabody in his Wayback Machine.

Recently, for example, federal labor inspectors testified to a Senate committee that they had found workers held “in a condition analogous to slavery” and in substandard living conditions on an agrobusiness plantation in Pará. They presented photographic evidence of those conditions.

Senator Katia Abreu of Tocantins ordered the federal police to investigate the photographic evidence for signs of falsification, and had the inspectors suspended.

Accused of conducting agitprop in the service of promoting class struggle. Seriously.
They have since been reinstated.

The principle of droit du seigneur is still defended tooth and nail in Brazil. By people with ready access to the gazillion-jigawatt megaphone, too. See also

Abreu’s standard rhetoric about reestablishing the natural harmony of capital and labor, or some such thing, rings a historical bell. I  am trying to put together a florilegium of her wit and wisdom to firm this point up.

In a similar case, at a Syngenta plant in Pará, a protest and invasion of a field planted with experimental genetically modified crops was broken up by armed paramilitaries.

(The government here has accepted some use of these sorts of crops, though a lot of its political base is dead set against them.) See also

The Minister of Justice has consistently said that combating illegal armed militias in the countryside is a federal law-enforcement priority, and a fair number of death-squad cases are now getting made, with an increased emphasis on police intelligence methods.

Following some of the recommendations of a congressional probe of the topic in, I think it was, 2005. See

At the hearing, the Rural Bloc presented what it said was photographic evidence that organized groups of rural workers who agitate for agrarian reform constitute armed militias, supplied and trained by the FARC and the Sendero Luminoso.  

Parlamentar da bancada ruralista, Ronaldo Caiado (DEM-GO) apresentou uma série de denúncias sobre a situação no Sul do Pará.

Rural Bloc lawmaker Ronaldo Caiado (DEM-Goiás) presented a series of charges about the situation in Southern Pará. 

Segundo ele, 160 fazendas foram ocupadas por grupos que “se travestem de movimentos sociais” para estabelecer uma espécie de “estado paralelo” na região.

According to him, 160 plantations have been occupied by groups “who disguise themselves as social movements” in order to establish a sort of “parallel state” in the region. 

Ele classificou-os de “bandidos, traficantes e pistoleiros” durante a apresentação na comissão, na qual usou fotografias e vídeos para mostrar o que defendia.

He classified them as “bandits, drug smugglers and hitmen” during the presentation to the committee, in which he used photos and videos to illustrate his thesis.

Caiado também acusou a governadora do estado, Ana Júlia, de ser conivente com as ações de grupos aos quais chamou de “milícias”.

Caiado also accused the governor of the state, Ana Júlia (Carepa, of the PT), of complicity with the activities of groups he described as “militias.”

“No Pará, não existe Estado democrático de direito. O governo proibiu a atuação policial nas áreas ocupadas”, disse, acrescentando que a medida consta de uma resolução do diretor de Polícia do Interior, o delegado Miguel Cunha Filho.

“In Pará, the democratic rule of law does not exist. The government has prohibited police actions in the occupied areas,” he said, adding that this measure is embodied in a resolution by the head of the Interior Police, Miguel Cunha Filho.

O deputado apresentou uma fotografia do documento para mostrar o que afirmava.

The lawmaker showed a photograph of the document to verify his statement.

Caiado disse, ainda, que os grupos são equipados com armas de grosso calibre, fornecidas pelas Forças Armadas Revolucionárias da Colômbia (Farc).

He also said that these groups are equipped with high-caliber firearms, furnished by the [Colombian guerrilla force] FARC.

“Uma triste radiografia que pude aqui expôr. Invasões, saques, mortes, destruição e rastros de destruição que caminham não só no Sul do Pará, mas em vários estados do Brasil, comandados por esses movimentos ditos sociais, que, na verdade, são treinados pelas Farc e pelo Sendero Luminoso [grupo guerrilheiro do Peru, cuja atuação ocorreu, principalmente, nas décadas de 70 e 80]”.

“A sad X-ray of the situation that I was able to expose. Invasions, looting, death, destruction and a path of destruction that are underway not only in the south of Pará, but in various states in Brazil, commanded by these so-called “social” movment which, in truth, are trained by FARC and the Sendero Luminoso.”

Ainda segundo o deputado, os grupos seriam responsáveis, este ano, por um prejuízo de R$100 milhões aos fazendeiros da região, provocado, principalmente, pela “matança” de 100 mil cabeças de gado. Os grupos também teriam destruído, de acordo com Caiado, 250 mil hectares de áreas ambientais protegidas.

The deputy also charged these groups are responsible, this year, for losses of R$100 million by plantation owners in the region, caused principally by the “slaughter” of 100,000 head of cattle. The groups are also claimed to have destroyed, according to Caiado, 250,000 hectares of ecological preserve.

On the notion that anti-latifundio movements of various kinds are principally responsible for environmental devastation, see also

Conspiracist theories of a nexus between the PT, the FARC, and the narcotraffic were repeated loudly and often, and continue to be repeated, by sectors of the political opposition, including the 2006 opposition presidential candidate. Typical of these sorts of manifestations:

There is an organic link between the ParTy of the 40 gangsters, the agro-terrorist MST, the narco-terrorist FARC, the MIR and the kidnap-terrorist PPMR and the narco-retailing PCC, which now doubles as its armed wing, outsourcing terrorism in the service of ideology. Tribuna Nacional (Brazil), July 17, 2006 (from Google cache)

NGOs dream of using the criminal power and the weapons of the traffic in favor of a social revolution they deem to be imminent and inevitable … It is needful for us not to heed their caveats, and to assume the risks and the collateral damage. It would be impossible to be more explicit than the words of Gov. Sergio Cabral about the narcotraffickers: “They are terrorists, they are evildoers.” – Col. Mário Sérgio de Brito Duarte, former commander of BOPE, the “trooper elite” of the Rio military police — unofficial but highly publicized motto: “We kill to create a better world” – and currently in charge of strategic planning for the state Secretary of Public Security (SSP), Rio de Janeiro. See also BOPE Blogs: “Only the Hard Men Can Save the City”

The Brazilian population is, in its vast majority, urbanized these days — a profound demographic shift over the last two or three decades similar to the urban migration to Northern cities from the Solid South after WWII.
Which is why it is always amazing to me, the degree to which the ruralist tail continues to wag the national (urban-industrial) dog. And the degree to which urban “opinion makers” continue to think and behave like latifundiários.

Personally, I get nightmares sometimes, as a homeowner here, about the potential legal uncertainties that could affect my title. I know of no reason to sweat this, mind you, but reading between the lines of the news on this subject does tend to get under your skin.

Our home is on a lot registered in the cartório and hooked up to the formal grid in an entirely legitimate manner, as far as we know. (Not even a cable TV gato, though believe me, we have been offered one on various occasions. If you took a walking tour with us through our (lovely) neighborhood, we could show you plenty of gatos, too. The proportion of informal hookups to formal ones is so staggering that it makes finger-wagging campaigns about the morality of the issue seem pretty laughable.)

And we have checked. The sewer authority was in the neighborhood the other day, for example, flushing a dye marker down our privies and drains to make sure all our drainage was not going into a informal sewer system that drains into the brook here at the bottom of the hill. We tested clean.

We own our cafofo free and clear, and we do have some local equivalent of the kind of title insurance we have on the apartment we own back in Brooklyn.

But still.

You thought the New York City real estate market was dog eat dog?

You ain’t seen nothing. See, for example

When some guy showed up here a few years ago, making the rounds with some fuzzy, crudely bogus and officialoid document mumbling something about “security services,” the neighborhood antibodies somehow rejected the alien body.

There was something funny going on there.

We are not sure we even want to know what it was.

People back in Central Brooklyn have been complaining a lot lately about zoning exceptions that are letting environmentallly inappropriate building projects into historic neighborhoods? This is a concern. I am trying to get read up on the subject, because it affects us directly.
But next to what goes on here? It is a freaking urban planning utopia, with Robert Moses as its Hidden Imam.

One of the more hopeful signs here recently, I thought, was the way the state government managed to end a militant squatters movement occupying the Prestes Maia building — two doors down from the state Treasury Dept. building, across from the Estação da Luz — without sending in the shock troop.

They negotiated the withdrawal with the MTST.

This made a positive impression on me.
This despite hysterical voices screaming for the pau to cantar. (There are people in France screaming hysterically that Sarkozy coddled the unions during his pro forma “the honeymoon is over” public employees strike test as well.)

Radicalism is a declining meme here in Brazil, I tend to think.

And really, the anti-latifúndio movement seems more attuned to the political Zeitgeist in this respect than the latifundio does. In terms of its rhetoric and PR, at any rate. To a degree. There is a fair amount of shrieking to be heard from that camp as well. But I bet if you measured it with a decibel meter you would find the volume generally trending down.)

I think you see a similar phenomenon at work in our mayor’s ongoing war of words with the teacher’s union in New York.

I mean, I am a firm supporter of the Fourth Amendment right. Unions have a right to exist, call my attention to their issues, and ask for my support. They serve an essential purpose. But they do not have an automatic right to win.  They cannot just appeal to some vague principle of lockstep solidarity. They have to show me that they have internal democracy and transparent leadership, that they are genuinely representative of they people who pay their dues. Because shrieking nonexistent facts hysterically is bad for their credibility, which provides ammunition for people who work to erode the credbility of union organizing generally.


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