Letter to Governor Romeu Zema, on the evictions carried out at Quilombo Campo Grande in Minas Gerais
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
Following the eviction of families, the destruction of a school and of other MST community structures at Quilombo Campo Grande carried out by the Military Police of Minas Gerais under the orders of Governor Romeu Zema, the U.S Network for Democracy in Brazil (USNDB) manifests concerns regarding this inhumane actions amidst a global pandemic that has taken more than 120,000 lives in Brazil. Our open letter counts with more than 80 signatures from scholars and activists living in the United States, including renowned professors from Princeton, Harvard, Brown and the University of Chicago, such as Sidney Chalhoub and James N. Green. As well as signatories from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), CODEPINK, Amazon Watch, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), among others.
Over 450 families have been living at Quilombo Campo Grande for more than twenty years, turning the land — which had been disused in the midst of Companhia Agropecuária Irmãos Azevedo’s (CAPIA) bankruptcy — into one of the most productive in the area. The letter states: “The plantation went bankrupt in 1996, leaving its workers uncompensated for their labor. In response, they began planting the old plantation fields as small, independent family farmers. Over the course of two decades, these farmers became famous for the organic Cafe Guaii coffee that they grow.”
Furthermore, the letter draws attention to the eviction moratoria that have been implemented in localities around the world. The moratoria and UN recommendations against evictions have been considered in Brazil. The letter reminds us that “In March 2020, with the pandemic intensifying in Brazil, the Supreme Court suspended all evictions until this health crisis was over. This suspension bans the implementation of any reintegration of ownership processes.”
We have very serious concerns about the safety of these families: “The official recommendations have been clear: Stay home as much as possible and wash hands thoroughly and frequently. The Brazilian Health Ministry made these recommendations at the beginning of the pandemic. The recommendations have particular importance because of the high rates of homelessness in urban areas and the lack of sanitation infrastructure in certain parts of the country. Nonetheless, government officials have mandated evictions to take place. Who benefits from these evictions while putting people's lives in jeopardy?
There is no possible explanation that would justify the violence and destruction that was carried out during the eviction, with physical attacks using batons and tear gas, a school destroyed and homes and crops burned. As such, the letter seeks “concrete answers and reparations”.