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Activist killed on GM action

Enough | 04.11.2007 23:12 | Bio-technology | Globalisation | Repression

Call for day of action on 8th November in solidarity with Brazilian GM activists after shootings on anti-GM land squat in Brazil

On October 21 at 1:30 p.m., gunmen attacked a Via Campesina encampment located at Syngenta’s 127-hectare farm used for field trials of genetically modified crops in Santa Tereza do Oeste, in Paraná, Brazil. During the attack, Valmir Mota de Oliveira, 42 years old (known as “Keno,”) activist and leader of the of the Movimento Sem Terra (the Brazilian Landless Rural Workers Movement), was killed at point-blank range by two shots to the chest. Two other MST leaders, Celso Barbosa and Célia Aparecida Lourenço, were pursued by the gunmen but managed to escape. Workers Gentil Couto Viera, Jonas Gomes de Queiroz, Domingos Barretos, Izabel Nascimento de Souza, and Hudson Cardin were seriously injured.

To anyone who has been part of the fight against GM crops and corporate control of our lives in the UK, from sticking “GM” labels on a packet of bean feast to sneaking through the fields at the dead of night to destroy the crops and sabotage the test-sites: Keno and his companions are us. It is an accident of class politics and geography we are not (yet) receiving death threats.

Via Campesina had previously occupied the site in Brazil because of Syngenta's illegal development of genetically modified (GM) seeds. Syngenta is the world's largest producer of agrochemicals and the third largest commercial seed producer. They pulled out of the GM in the UK after their last attempt at a field trial was destroyed.

At dawn on October 21st, about 150 members of Via Campesina reoccupied Syngenta's site, where they encountered four armed security guards, who were disarmed and left the site. At about 1 in the afternoon, Via Campesina reports, "a bus stopped in front of the entry gate and about forty armed gunmen got out, firing machine guns at the people that they saw in the encampment. They broke down the gate, then shot [Mota].

Mota, Lourenço and Barbosa had been receiving death threats and intimidation since the beginning of the year. They still continued to take action.

We need to act in solidarity, because this is the panorama, and it is only going to get worse. Sick though it is, responses from ‘concerned citizens’ in countries like ours can help protect activists like Keno and have an impact on companies like Syngenta.

La Via Campesina are calling on all organizations and movements to organize protest actions at Syngenta offices on the 8th November in the countries where they are based, and to hand deliver letters to the Brazilian and Swiss embassies, with the following demands:

1. The punishment of the material perpetrators and intellectual authors of this crime.
2. Expropriation of Syngenta lands, to be used for the production of native seeds, and that these lands be administered by rural peasants and farm workers.
3. The expulsion of Syngenta from Brazil.
4. That the Brazilian government headed by President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva adopt measures to ensure the physical integrity of the rural farm workers who are threatened by the armed men contracted by Syngenta.
5. That all organisations back up the initiatives of Amnesty International in their call to repudiate and condemn the actions of Syngenta.
6. That all organisations of Via Campesina in all countries organize days of action and protest in the Swiss and Brazilian Embassies, as well as at the offices of Syngenta this Thursday 8th November and on the 10th of December condemning this criminal act.
7. To send letters of protest to the following addresses:

Governador do Estado do Paraná
Exmo Governador do Estado do Paraná
Sr. Roberto Requião de Mello e Silva
Palácio Iguaçu
Praça Nossa Senhora de Salete, s/nº, 3º andar
Centro Cívico 80.530-909
Curitiba/PR - Brasil
Fax: + 55 41 3350 2935
Saudação: Vossa Excelência/ Your Excellency

Ministro da Justiça
Exmo Ministro da Justiça
Sr. Tarso Genro
Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco "T"
70712-902 - Brasília/DF - Brasil
Fax: + 55 61 3322-6817
Saudação: Vossa Excelência/ Your Excellency

Cópias para:
Secretaria Especial de Direitos Humanos
Exmo. Secretário Especial
Sr. Paulo de Tarso Vannuchi
Esplanada dos Ministérios - Bloco "T" - 4º andar
70.064-900 - Brasília/DF - Brasil
Fax: + 55 61 3226 7980
Saudação: Vossa Excelência/ Your Excellency

Copia al MST Brasil y Via Campesina : mstpr [NOSPAM]
viacampesina [NOSPAM]
Send us a short report and photos of the actions organized to:
viacampesina [NOSPAM}

Dear Sir:
I, [YOUR NAME / NAME OF ORGANIZATION] am writing to express my grave concern with regard to the October 21 murder of Valmir Mota de Oliveira, also known as Keno, of the Movement of Landless Workers (MST) and Via Campesina, in the Brazilian state of Paraná, who was shot twice and killed by armed gunmen on an experimental GMO farm of Syngenta Seeds in Santa Tereza do Oeste Paraná, Brazil. Keno’s death is a tremendous loss for his family, for those struggling for social justice and human rights in Brazil, and for the international network of friends and allies who continue to be shocked by the brutality of agribusiness expansion in Brazil.
It has been documented that at 1:30 p.m. of the day of the attack, a bus stopped in front of the entrance gate to the farm and an armed militia of approximately 40 heavily armed gunmen got out, firing at the people in the encampment. They broke down the gate, pursued and killed activist Keno with two shots to the chest, attempted to kill two other leaders, shot five other landless workers, and severely beat Isabel do Nascimento de Souza, who remains in serious condition at the hospital.
In addition, it has been noted that Syngenta was using the services of an armed militia which was acting through a front company, NF Security, in conjunction with the Rural Society of the Western Region (SRO) and the Movement of Rural Producers (MPR), which are tied to agribusiness.
While an inquiry has been opened in order to investigate these denunciations against your company and NF Security, we insist that you immediately suspend all contracting of private militias in Brazil to avoid any further violations of human rights.
Please see to it that the individuals involved in this attack, who are intimately linked to and paid by your company, are brought to justice. Also, please ensure that your company avoids further altercations with Brazil’s human rights and social justice movements, and that the right of Brazil’s people to peacefully organize be respected by your Brazil-based employees and functionaries.