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Fri Feb 1, 2013, 12:21 AM

Murder of Landless Workers’ Leader Recalls Brazil’s Dictatorship

Murder of Landless Workers’ Leader Recalls Brazil’s Dictatorship

By Fabiana Frayssinet

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 31 2013 (IPS) - The execution-style killing of a leader of the Landless Workers’ Movement in a sugarcane plantation in the southeastern Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, where bodies of opponents of the dictatorship were incinerated in the 1970s, recalls one of the most tragic chapters in this country’s history.

In the book “Memórias de uma Guerra Suja” (Memoirs of a Dirty War), Cláudio Guerra, formerly an agent of the Departamento de Ordem Política e Social (DOPS), the 1964-1985 military regime’s political police, tells how the bodies of 10 leftwing activists were burned, in order to leave no trace, in the oven of the Usina Cambahyba sugarcane plant in Campos dos Goytacazes, a municipality in the north of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Forty years later, the name of this agroindustrial complex of seven plantations with a total area of 3,500 hectares is again linked to the silencing of a bothersome voice, but this time under a full democracy.

Fifty-four-year-old Cícero Guedes was an outstanding leader in the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST). He led the land occupation of the Usina Cambahyba plant which gave rise to the Luiz Maranhão encampment.

“He was a real symbol, and (his murder) sends a powerful message to the MST, which is organising the land claims of rural workers in the area,” one of the MST national directors, Marcelo Durão, told IPS. “We are in conflict with the forces of oppression in the region,” he said, and he described Guedes as “a staunch activist, consistent and very focused on the struggle for land, as well as an authority on agroecological production.”


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