Cablegate: Got Guerrillas? The Rise of the Lcp in Brazil
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 BRASILIA 000507
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER FARC BR CO
SUBJECT: Got Guerrillas? The Rise of the LCP in Brazil
1. (U) Summary: Following is an Embassy Brasilia translation of
an article published in the March 26, 2008, edition of IstoE, a
major Brazilian news magazine. The article reports that a violent
leftist guerrilla organization operates in Rondonia state, Brazil,
and in some ways resembles the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces
(FARC). End Summary.
BRAZIL HAS GUERRILLAS
2. (U) ISTOE enters the base of the League of Poor Peasants (LCP),
an armed group with 20 camps in three states, that has nine times
more combatants than the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) had in
the Araguaia Guerrilla, and whose actions resulted in the death of
22 people last year.
3. (U) The noise of two gun shots broke the silence of the night
in the peaceful rural community of Jacilandia, 38 kilometers away
from the city of Buritis, state of Rondonia. It was a little bit
past ten o'clock at night on the 22nd of February when three hooded
men blocked the dirt road that connects this area of housing to the
municipality, and coldly executed the farmer at point blank range.
At 28 years of age, he fell over with 38 caliber shots in the nape
of the neck. Ten hours after the crime, Garcia's body was still at
the locale, spread out in the arms of his mother, Maria Tereza de
Jesus, still waiting for the police. He was the youngest of her
three sons. A month after the murder, the Chief of Police of
Rondonia Iramar Goncalves, who investigates the case, concluded: "He
was murdered by the LCP guerrillas."
4. (U) The acronym that the Police Chief referred to, with strange
nonchalance, means Liga dos Camponeses Pobres (League of Poor
Peasants), a radical organization of the extreme left that adopted
armed struggle as a strategy to come to power in the country through
"violent revolution." Paulo Roberto was the most recent victim of
the LCP that, under the negligence of the federal authorities and
the silence of the rest of Brazil, installed itself eight years ago
in the region and is, at every hour, more violent. Just in 2007, the
group's operations produced 22 victims - 18 farm workers or farm
owners, and four partisans. Widely known in Rondonia, the members of
the LCP control 500,000 hectares. They are spread out among thirteen
bases that extend from Jaru, in the center of the state, to the
outskirts of the state capital Porto Velho, stretching across to the
border with Bolivia, in a region where they have just opened a road.
The purpose of the guerrillas would be to use the road as an escape
route but, as long as neither the Federal Police nor the army
bothers them, the clandestine trail is being called the
trans-cocaine trail - over it, according to the local police, drugs,
contraband and guerilla arms are smuggled.
5. (U) The government authorities don't have access to any of
these settlements. Under the cover of "agrarian revolution," the LCP
carries its battle flags against the bourgeoisie, imperialism, and
large rural landholdings while its activists assault, torture, kill,
and terrorize in rural cities and zones deep in the interior of
Brazil. Hooded, armed with machine guns, pistols, grenades and
AR-15, FAL, and AK-47 rifles, which are supposed to be for the
exclusive use of the armed forces, they total almost nine times more
combatants than the 60 militants of the Communist Party of Brazil
who hid themselves away in the Amazon jungle in the beginning of the
70s during the legendary Araguaia Guerilla. "Colombia is here," says
Police Chief Goncalves, in a reference to the FARC.
6. (U) IN THE HEART OF GUERRILLA TERRITORY Armed with an AR-15, a
police officer enters into the heart of the territory dominated by
the LCP and a barrier which prohibits access to the center of
military training. "We can't see them but we are in their sights," a
Rondonia State Police sergeant says to the IstoE team of reporters.
7. (U) The IstoE reporters entered into that prohibited area. The
district of Jacinopolis, 450 kilometers from Porto Velho, is the
heart of the guerrilla zone. According to the secret service of the
BRASILIA 00000507 002 OF 005
Rondonia Military Police, that is where the training camp is. "Not
even with 50 armed men do I have the courage to enter the area they
invaded," the Police Chief admitted. To walk along the muddy,
hostile dirt roads is like walking through a mine field. At any
moment and with anyone that you might talk to, the fear of an ambush
is constant. The activists have adopted the strategy of blocking the
roads and of abducting people that transit through the area without
a verbal safe-conduct pass granted by the LCP. "It is a way of
combating the enemy forces," they wrote in one of the pamphlets that
they distributed in the region. "These bandits were very well
trained by the FARC guerrillas," reveals Major Enedy Dias de Araujo,
ex-police commander of the Military Police in Jaru, the city where
the headquarters of the League is located.
8. (U) In order to get the so-called agrarian "revolution" going,
according to the LCP documents that IstoE has had access to, the
main activity of the group is to put into practice the so-called
"revolutionary violence." And, for the local inhabitants, there has
been cold and vengeful violence. In the case of its most recent
victim, what the LCP did was a summary execution after internal
judgment was brought on by suspicion as to the real purpose of the
presence of Paulo Roberto Garcia in the region. "They believe that
the young man was an agent that had infiltrated as a farmer and they
had no scruples in executing him," the Police Chief said. Of the 22
deaths in 2007, four were farmers and fourteen were farm workers,
which the League classifies as paramilitary. On the guerrilla side,
four partisans were buried - murdered under different circumstances
by hit men from the farms of the region.
9. (U) Besides killing, the LCP is accused by the police of
burning homes, burning machines and equipment, and of devastating
the Amazon forest. The residents in the community where Garcia lived
don't know the meaning of class struggle or revolutionary parties,
and much less what socialism is. But they know very well that, since
the LCP has been around, there have been more deaths by killing than
SIGNS IN THE JUNGLE
10. (U) The only ones who are able to openly pass through
guerrilla territory are the clandestine lumber truckers that pay a
toll of R$ 2,000 per day to the LCP to drive on the dirt roads
controlled by the militia. In exchange for the toll, the guerillas
provide armed security for the lumber smugglers so that they can rob
trees from private property, conservation areas and Indian lands.
These are lands that the LCP says that it has "taken" - and the verb
"take," instead of "trespass" or "occupy," as the Landless Worker's
Movement (MST) prefers, is not mere semantics, but a revelation of
the bellicose nature of the group. "It is a failure of the Brazilian
Army that allows these terrorists to occupy our border areas," Major
Josenildo Jacinto do Nascimento blames. As the commander of the
Environmental Military Police Battalion, Nascimento is deeply
affected by the power and arrogance of that armed bandits.
11. (U) Last year, they tore apart an Environmental Police
military base and abducted their soldiers. "The tactic used by the
LCP for ambush is effective," admits one of the military police
officers who was a prisoner for seven hours. "Because these are dirt
roads, in the middle of the jungle, they cut down trees that block
the roads. When people get out of their vehicles to move the logs,
they are captured," says E. S., an Environmental Military Police
officer, who prefers to remain anonymous in order to protect
himself. "This war is a cancer that is spreading through the state,"
12. (U) As can be seen in the League's pamphlets, the guerrillas
post men at bases on the hilltops with binoculars and firecrackers
to announce an "invasion" of their area by "enemy forces." After
being closely monitored by motorcycle groups along the 38 kilometers
that took us an hour and a half to travel across the LCP territory,
we heard a volley of firecrackers announcing our presence. We were
close to a base. The alert also serves the purpose of having armed
men fan out into the jungle to occupy barricades set up around large
trees near the camps.
DEATH IN THE CAMP
BRASILIA 00000507 003 OF 005
13. (U) The farmer Garcia (on the right) was killed by two shots
in the nape of the neck. "The guerrillas thought that he was an
agent in the guerrilla area," Police Chief Iramar Goncalves said.
The LCP leaders accused of the murder are Russo (on the left) and
Caco, who remain at large.
14. (U) "The fact is that we cannot observe them, but we are in
their sights," the Environmental Police military officer
accompanying us warns. The truth is the Environmental Military
Police is the only state force whose presence is tolerated by the
guerrilla. The explanation is simple: With only eight agents to take
care of almost 900,000 hectares in that region, they represent no
threat to the group. On the contrary, they would be easy prey if the
activists so desired.
15. (U) Right away the noise from the firecrackers reverberates
throughout the immensity of the jungle, women and children put on
their hoods and take their positions along the front line. When we
get to the top of a hill, after passing through a barricade
constructed with a huge tree trunk with the League's inscription on
it, a red flag is seen flapping at the edge of a grouping of houses
in the camp with thatched roofs. Just a little farther, another
barricade and then we come to an obligatory stop. On the other side
of the gate, the following dialogue took place with a raggedy
dressed, hooded, and unsociable band.
- What have you come here for? - An angry, masked representative
- We are journalists and we want to know what you all have to say
about agrarian reform and the League of Poor Peasants.
- You can go now, we don't have anything to say. You only get in the
- How many families are in this camp?
- May we speak with your leader?
- There is no leader here, we are all the same.
- Why are you masked?
- The mask is our identity.
- Do you believe that you can carry out a revolution?
- We don't have to answer to any bourgeoisie press.
- Who do you receive support from?
- None of your business.
- Can we enter into the camp?
- No way. Get out of here!
16. (U) With bullet proof vests on under our shirts, we left the
camp gate out of a matter of safety. We drove back in our vehicle
over the precarious road another hour and a half until the first LCP
toll point. "Last year, we were taken prisoner by them, we were
eight military policemen, and they were more than 50 men armed with
machine guns," the police sergeant says. "There is just no way, to
solve the problem with this band only a joint action by the army,
federal police and state forces."
17. (U) TERROR Farm owner Sebastiao Conte (on the left) had his
main building, tractors and management plan burned up. The
guerrillas didn't even spare the Environmental Police post, which
was destroyed. In the camps, they put children on the front line and
they use hoods.
18. (U) Back from the area dominated by the LCP, it becomes
obvious by the reserved conversations with the few residents that
are willing to say something, that the terror disseminated by the
guerrilla is measured by the silence of these country folk. The
rebels control people's lives, besides investigating who is who in
the region. Whoever does not "collaborate" with them - by providing
money, livestock or a part of the production - becomes the target of
cowardly attacks. Stories of farm workers in the area that were
placed naked over ant hills, or beaten until they abandoned the
area, are very much present in the minds of the residents. The
torture carried out against rural workers make it difficult to hire
manual labor in the region. "Nobody wants to work on my farm
anymore," admits Sebastiao Conte, the owner of 30,000 hectares of
land. He had part of his land "taken" two years ago by the LCP, and
BRASILIA 00000507 004 OF 005
the main building was burned, as were his tractors, the worker
housing and the forest management area. The farm owner, accused by
the League of being a large rural property owner, is proof that the
guerrilla terror is the same for everyone. According to him, over
the last two years, he had to bury three of his hired hands. "All of
them were murdered barbarously," Conte tells. "I am asking for help.
I don't know who to turn to."
19. (U) Far from there, in the city of Cujubim, the rural workers
that are employed on the farms can't walk around unarmed. "Around
here, either you go armed, or you're dead," M.L. says. The farm
foreman and his son have already lost count of all the times they
have traded shots with the masked ones that tried to invade the
farm. Treated as if they were paramilitary, the farm workers are
favorite targets for attacks from the League, after the owners
themselves. Nelson Elbrio, the manager of the Mutum Farm, had the
bad luck of falling into the hands of the "organization." He was
taken prisoner exactly like the Environmental Police military
officers and remained a prisoner under the watchful eye of one of
the armed men for six hours. "Right when I came around the curve in
the dirt road I came face to face with fifteen hooded and heavily
armed men. They pulled me out of the car and then I went through
hell," Elbrio tells. "They wanted me to tell the secrets of the
farm: How many people worked there, where the fuel tanks were, and
if there was armed security." The worker's suffering went on until
the end of the afternoon, when the group dragged him to the main
building of the farm, shooting off a shotgun right next to his ears.
Right after, they forced him to watch them burn the property and the
tractors. "I never slept well after that," Elbrio said.
20. (U) With death at every step, fear has transformed entire
districts into unpopulated zones - true ghost towns - and has
created a mass of refugees from their own land, expulsed by
guerrillas. In Jacilandia, of the 25 wooden houses on the only
street in the town, only eight are occupied. Even the church closed
its doors. "The people went away out of fear of the guerrillas,"
said one of the residents, and old man who only agreed to be
interviewed anonymously. "Here, we can't say anything. To remain
standing, you have to learn how to live," said the old farmer. The
silence and the abandonment of the land are the hardest translation
of this new way of living. Maria, the mother of the murdered farm
worker, did not wait for the seventh day mass of her youngest
offspring. She left her 100 hectares behind her, where she had 100
head of cattle and a recently built house. She left for an unknown
place under the protection of other son.
21. (U) On that piece of land, the few that remain in spite of
everything are faceless and nameless. When they are interrogated by
the police during criminal investigations, they also become blind
and deaf. "There is no witness to anything," complains Police Chief
Goncalves. The reason why the police investigations are fruitless is
because the insurgent prisoners are easily freed by the courts.
"Because they employ the guerrilla tactic of using masks in their
activities, we have our hands tied and cannot punish them. We never
know who actually killed," the Police Chief complains. The only LCP
leaders to go to jail because of murders were Wenderson Francisco
dos Santos (nicknamed Russo) and Edilberto Resende da Silva
(nicknamed Caco), who is at large. The two were accused of
participating in the murder of the rural worker Antonio Martins, in
2003. Russo was absolved in trial court and the public prosecutors
appealed the decision to the Superior Court of Justice.
FEAR OR CAUTION?
22. (U) "Not even with 50 armed men do I have the courage to enter
and invade their territory," Police Chief Goncalves says.
23. (U) THE BRAZILIAN INTELLIGENCE AGENCY (ABIN) KNOWS
This tension is the backdrop of a psychological war that the
ideologues of the organization deem to be an ideal instrument so
that the area will be abandoned by the farm owners. "The best way of
having the area unoccupied is by destroying the large rural
property," told us one of the masked men, called Luiz by a
colleague. According to the logic of the LCP, the farm owners have
BRASILIA 00000507 005 OF 005
to always lose money, or else they won't abandon the land. At the
head of the 300 families that occupied the Catanio Farm, a 25,000
hectares property, partisan Luiz defends the confiscation of cattle
to satisfy the hunger of the squatters and thinks that "taking over"
the land is a legal way of carrying out an "agrarian revolution."
"If we wait for the courts, then we'll wait here forever," he says.
24. (U) The LCP militants are so audacious that, last year, more
than 200 of them marched hooded through the streets of the town of
Buritis, 450 kilometers from Porto Velho, until they stopped at the
gates of the police station, where they demanded the exit of Police
Chief Goncalves from the district. The reason: He had arrested one
of the leaders of the guerrilla faction. Not yet satisfied, the
bandits beat on the doors of the Public Prosecution Office and of
the courthouse demanding that the heads of these government bodies
also step down. This was reported to the Ministry of Justice, to
President Lula and to the state government. Until now, there has
been no response. "Nobody takes our accusations seriously. They
think that we are joking, that accusing guerrillas is something
delirious," says the outraged Police Chief Goncalves. "This is going
to end up in a tragedy of alarming proportions, and then the human
rights defenders will show up," he criticizes. It is exactly because
the accusations are not taken seriously on the part of the public
prosecutors, judges and the military that the League gains strength
and grows with impunity.
25. (U) As tragic as the terror that this armed group imposes on
the rural communities is the fact that the state and federal
governments know of the existence of this armed band - and don't do
anything. According to the LCP Dossier, a confidential, 120-page
Rondonia police report, sent last December to the Brazilian
Intelligence Agency (ABIN), to the Army, and the Ministry of
Agrarian Reform, the armed group, besides committing every kind of
barbarity, is financed by illegal loggers. According to the
document, the LCP controls an area estimated at 500,000 hectares,
where it indoctrinates more than 4,000 poor peasant families spread
out among more than 20 agrarian reform camps variously placed in the
states of Minas Gerais, Para, and Rondonia. "They are going against
the grain of what is contemporary. But, in fact, they formed a
'parallel' state," says Oswaldo Firmo, a judge of law at the bench
specialized in agrarian conflict in the state of Minas Gerais.
26. (U) Documents in the possession of IstoE prove that federal
government authorities have turned a deaf ear to the problem. On
January 11, 2008, the Federal government agrarian ombudsperson, the
Appellate Judge Gercino Jose da Silva Filho, received the
accusations sent to him about the illegal activities committed by
the League of Poor Peasants. Once again, nothing was done. "They say
that they are aware of everything, but where is the action?" wonders
Major Nascimento, the commander of the Environmental Military Police
in Rondonia. "This situation here will only be solved together with
other military forces," the major admits. That is what happened in
the state of Para last November, during the so-called Peace in the
Countryside Operation, when an action involving the Army, civil and
military police, and federal police expelled LCP squatters that had
occupied the Fourkilha Farm, in the southern part of the state. With
two helicopters, 200 men and 40 police vehicles, the task force
surrounded the area and arrested almost 150 militants and recovered
a true war arsenal. "We need the iron hand of the state. Here we are
treated as if we were marginal citizens," added the farm owner
27. Comment. IstoE is a left-of-center Brazilian newsweekly, third
in national circulation, and while it is generally accurate and
fair, its reporting is more uneven than that of circulation leader
Veja. Neither the political section nor the regional affairs office
had previously heard of the LCP, but the report is plausible given
Brazil's size, the occasional appearance of rural criminals and
guerrillas in the past, and the inaccessibility of remote areas.