Rondônia: Camp Manoel Ribeiro Peasants and Surrounding Communities Face Military Police Intimidation

The families of Camp Manoel Ribeiro faced another attempt to intimidate from the police in the service of the latifundium, on September 6, in the interior of Rondônia. These peasants are fighting for the lands of the Nossa Senhora Aparecida latifundium, located in the municipality of Chupinguaia (about 675 km from Porto Velho, main city of Rondônia state), one of the last parts of the old Santa Elina farm, where the Heroic Peasant Resistance of Corumbiara took place.

On the afternoon of that Sunday, a helicopter from the Air Operation Nucleus (NOA) of the civil and military police made low flights over the camp. As the aircraft approached, equipped with what appeared to be large-caliber weapons, peasants fired fireworks to alert campers and supporters.

Instead of frightening families fighting for land, the overflight of the aircraft left everyone alert and ready to resist a possible eviction attempt. Organized and showing their combativeness, the peasants quickly covered their faces to prevent identification and harassment by police officers who usually use helicopters to identify territories and individuals before invasion operations.

Families also wielded red flags and shouted slogans in the face of attempted intimidation. On September 6, Camp Manoel Ribeiro completed three weeks of victorious resistance, and each day more and more people join in the struggle to conquer the last lands of the former Santa Elina Farm.

Military Police invades plots and houses, threatens and humiliates workers neighboring Camp Manoel Ribeiro

Days after the intimidation promoted by the military through a NOA helicopter, an unfair, cowardly and abusive operation by the Military Police (MP) used two vehicles and a helicopter to threaten neighboring peasants to Camp Manoel Ribeiro on the morning of September 11.

[The] Military police invaded properties and residences, threatened and tortured families. At the same time, an arbitrary blitz (“routine” operations searching for “suspicious” elements, sometimes “legitimate,” sometimes merely under the guise of looking for “drunk drivers,” “fugitives,” and so on) was carried out, stopping everyone who passed on the road near the entrance of Nossa Senhora Aparecida Farm, in the municipality of Chupinguaia.

This is a typical action of the Rondonia MP in defense of the latifundium thieves of public lands and in criminalizing all the peasants in the surroundings of the camps, in an attempt to isolate the peasants fighting for land.

In less than a week, two operations with use of police helicopters, under the Marcos José Rocha/PSL state (Rondonia) administration, were launched against Camp Manoel Ribeiro, Photo: Resistencia Camponesa.

Coming from the direction of Vilhena, the helicopter flew several times over Camp Manoel Ribeiro and then landed in a region that, according to reports, would be close to or at the headquarters of Nossa Senhora Aparecida farm itself. Then, the aircraft returned to the camp in shallow flights. At this moment, a family that takes care of one of the guardhouses of the neighboring Bela Manhã farm, curious about this unusual event in the region, filmed the approach of the helicopter with a cell phone.

In an attempt to curb any record of the illegal operation, military policemen came in two vehicles and jumped over the fence, pointed firearms at the worker’s head, forced him to his knees and broke into the family residence. The policemen insistently asked the location of the entrance to Camp Manoel Ribeiro and about the leaders, even after the worker explained that he is a farm worker and that he does not know any information about the camp. All this truculence was committed in the presence of the victim’s wife and two small children of the father of the family. The military also photographed everyone without permission.

Proceeding with their illegal operation, the vehicles moved to the plot of a peasant neighbor to Camp Manoel Ribeiro. Four policemen broke into the property without permission and pointed assault weapons at the whole family. The workers lived moments of terror and had their lives put at serious risk because, due to the helicopter’s shallow flight and the noises produced, they could not hear the policemen pointing the guns aggressively, even to the children.

The policemen forced everyone to take their hands to their heads, made threats, asked if they knew information about the occupation and the leaders, searched and photographed the family, as well as the license plates of the vehicles that were in the residence. Among those who witnessed the illegal action was a child only 7 years old and a young man, also a minor, who had a gun pointed in his direction. One of the agents even threatened the youth saying that he would shoot him if he did not obey the orders. A hunting rifle found on the property was taken by the forces of repression, a common weapon among peasants for their defense and food.

Reports also show that all arbitrary action by the police was accompanied by the helicopter. The invasions and threats against the working families, besides being truculent and cowardly, were committed without the presentation of any judicial warrant, which points to the illegal nature of the operation.

Several peasants in the region also denounced that in recent weeks the Nossa Senhora Aparecida farm hired gunmen, four of whom were military police. This is a common practice of the police, see Corumbiara’s Heroic Peasant Resistance, which took place in these same lands that belonged to the former Santa Elina farm, when the MP lent uniforms to gunmen and committed all sorts of terrorist acts against surrendered peasants. It is not too much to remember that these crimes have gone and go unpunished, and that the current security secretary of Rondonia, José Hélio Cysneiro Pachá, was one of the officers responsible for the heinous crimes committed against the peasants, including women and children. 

The operation was clearly intended to intimidate the neighbors in order to reduce the support given to the peasants fighting for land and, with this, isolate Camp Manoel Ribeiro. But what could be seen in the region was that the arbitrary action of the police further increased the popular revolt. Indignated, the residents report that they were never even bothered by the peasants of Camp Manoel Ribeiro. But they cannot say the same about the police.

This is already the third time that police officers have gone to the area of the occupied farm, and the second time they have made incursions into the area with the use of helicopters, indicating that they are preparing for future major attacks. So far, no eviction orders have been issued to the families settled in Manoel Ribeiro.

Police raid in the vicinity of Camp Manoel Ribeiro

The police raid that intercepted vehicles near the headquarters of Nossa Senhora far, on the morning of September 11th counted on the use of three police trucks and also showed clear signs of abuse. Motorcycles and vans were stopped, the drivers were forced to put their hands on their heads as if they were criminals, were searched and photographed, as well as their documents and vehicle plates. A peasant reported that he was detained for approximately one hour at the blitz and was repeatedly asked if he had any relation or knew information about Camp Manoel Ribeiro.

This article was originally published on September 18 on the Tribune of the People website, and the original report was published by Resistencia Camponesa.

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