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Cablegate: Two Killed in Mst Land Invasion Skirmish

VZCZCXRO4294
PP RUEHRG
DE RUEHSO #0879/01 3041303
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 311303Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7634
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 8747
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3154
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 2918
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 2479
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 3537
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 2181
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0587
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 3859
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 8415
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 2937
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC 0703
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SAO PAULO 000879

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, DRL/ILCSR, INR/IAA, INR/R/AA
STATE ALSO FOR DS/IP/WHA, DS/DSS/ITA, DS/DSS/OSAC
STATE PASS USTR FOR KATE DUCKWORTH
STATE PASS EXIMBANK
STATE PASS OPIC FOR DMORONESE, NRIVERA, CVERVENNE
NSC FOR TOMASULO
TREASURY FOR JHOEK
USDOC FOR 4332/ITA/MAC/WH/OLAC
USDOC FOR 3134/ITA/USCS/OIO/WH/RD
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
DOL FOR ILAB
USAID FOR LAC/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ELAB PGOV PINR PINS PHUM SOCI ASEC BR

SUBJECT: TWO KILLED IN MST LAND INVASION SKIRMISH


C O R R E C T E D C O P Y - ADDED TAGS, SLUG LINE

REF: (A) SAO PAULO 367; (B) 06 SAO PAULO 1054
(C) 06 SAO PAULO 332

1. (U) Summary: Two people were shot dead and eight wounded Sunday
in a clash between members of landless peoples' organizations and
armed guards protecting a farm owned by the Swiss-owned biotech
company Syngenta Seeds in Santa Tereza do Oeste, a small town about
340 miles west of Curitiba, the capital of Parana state. In
addition to wanting the land for settlement, the landless movements
that agitate for agrarian reform oppose and sometimes target
companies like Syngenta that work with genetically modified
organisms (GMOs). As of this writing, the invaders continue to
occupy the 318-acre property. "Now keeping the area occupied is a
question of honor," said one movement leader. Many observers
believe that the actions and policies of Governor Roberto Requiao, a
populist who opposes GMOs, encourage the MST aggression that
sometimes leads to loss of life. The incident reaffirms the role of
Parana in southern Brazil as a frequent battlefield in Brazil's
ongoing conflicts over land. End Summary.

2. (U) The clash occurred when a group of about 200 militants
belonging to the Landless Rural Workers' Movement (MST) and Via
Campesina attempted to occupy the Syngenta test farm early on the
morning of October 21. Private security guards employed by the
company tried to deter the invasion, and gunfire erupted. Killed in
the shooting were Valmir Mota de Oliveira, aka Keno, 32, a leader of
the MST in Parana state, and Fabio Ferreira, a 25-year-old security
guard. Eight people were injured in the fray. Syngenta admitted
they had hired a security company to protect the farm but insisted
that, per worldwide company policy, the force was supposed to be
unarmed.

3. (U) The Syngenta property was first invaded by land reform
activists in March 2006, when 600 Via Campesina activists occupied
the farm to protest against the firm's research on genetically
modified soybeans (ref C). A court order issued in July 2007
required the invaders to vacate the property, and they complied, but
apparently decided to try again. Roberto Requiao, Governor of
Parana and himself an opponent of GMOs - per ref B, in 2003 he
declared Parana GMO-free and banned the transportation of GMO
commodities through the state, causing a serious loss of business to
the Port of Paranagua - supported the movement's actions and tried
to expropriate the land for the state, alleging it was located in an
area off-limits to GMO cultivation. The company ultimately
prevailed in the courts against the state government, and Requiao
was eventually forced to modify his anti-GMO stance.

4. (U) MST members claim they expelled a group of guards from the
Syngenta property over the weekend but that the guards returned
armed and on the offensive. "They came back shooting at us," said
Celso Ribeiro Barbosa, an MST leader. For their part, the guards
from the private security firm allege that the activists had
captured a group of their colleagues so they went to get help and
came back to rescue them. "When we arrived the activists shot at us.
They were heavily armed," said Nerci de Freitas, owner of NF
Security. In contrast with Syngenta officials, Freitas asserts that
the guards are authorized to carry guns on the job.

5. (U) As of the morning of October 30, the invaders are reportedly
still occupying the Syngenta property. They may well remain there
until the owners can get another court order. Police are

SAO PAULO 00000879 002 OF 002


investigating Sunday's incident and have seven guards in custody on
charges of murder and criminal gang formation. They have also
arraigned Freitas on suspicion of the intentional murder of the MST
militant. Parana's Secretary of Public Security characterized NF
Security as an armed militia working in concert with landowners'
associations. Police arrested but subsequently released four
landless movement activists who took part in the conflict. The
Parana Bar Association attributed the clash to the ideological
treatment given by the state government to land conflicts, recalling
that the government sometimes disobeys or defers action on court
orders to expel land invaders, which the Bar believes encourages
more invasions and armed conflicts.

6. (U) In a separate incident, media report that nine people were
wounded October 24 in clashes between military police and MST
members in the area of Coqueiros do Sul and Carazinho in northern
Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's southernmost state and another site of
frequent land invasions. According to Military Brigade spokesmen,
some 600 MST members were blocking portions of a highway and trying
to force their way into the town of Almirante Tamandare do Sul,
about 190 miles north and west of the capital, Porto Alegre. The
Military Brigade claims to have information that "elite squads" of
MST militants are planning more land invasions in the state.

7. (U) Comment: In April 2006, a Venezuelan delegation led by
President Hugo Chavez visited Curitiba, capital of Parana state, at
Governor Requiao's invitation. During the visit, Chavez and Requiao
met with MST leader Joao Pedro Stedile, and Chavez addressed an
audience of MST and Via Campesina militants, sharing his vision of
socialism and the inevitable end of capitalism. While a number of
Brazilian political leaders - especially in President Lula's
Workers' Party (PT), with which MST is affiliated as an autonomous
social movement - sympathize with MST's objectives, Requiao
(Brazilian Democratic Movement Party - PMDB) is one of the few to
embrace the movement so openly and encourage its lawless activities.
This attitude is often cited by his opponents as a major reason the
movement is so active in Parana. The fact that military police
confronted the MST in Rio Grande do Sul while landowners in Parana
must depend on private security guards may be one indication of
differences in approach to the landless movement on the part of the
two state governments. End Comment.

8. (U) This cable was cleared by Embassy Brasilia.

WHITE

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