(AA) America Update #325 -extracts

esperanto (lingvoj@lds.co.uk)
Tue, 23 Apr 1996 02:44:58 +0200


WEEKLY NEWS UPDATE ON THE AMERICAS
ISSUE #325, APRIL 21, 1996
NICARAGUA SOLIDARITY NETWORK OF GREATER NEW YORK
339 LAFAYETTE ST., NEW YORK, NY 10012 (212) 674-9499

*1. US CONGRESS PASSES "TERRORISM" BILL
AGAINST "PEOPLE OF THIS HEMISPHERE"

On Apr. 19 the US Senate voted 91-8 to approve a new version of
the bipartisan Comprehensive Antiterrorism Act of 1995,
reconciling sharply different versions passed previously by the
Senate and the House of Representatives. The House approved the
compromise bill 293-133 on Apr. 18. US president Bill Clinton,
whose administration proposed the original legislation in
February 1995, plans to sign the bill early next week. [New York
Times 4/18/96, 4/19/96; Washington Post 4/19/96]

The compromise version restores several measures demanded by
Clinton but rejected earlier by the House. These would give the
president the authority--not subject to appeal--to designate
foreign groups and governments as terrorist and then ban US
citizens from contributing to or raising funds for any activities
of these groups or countries. Foreign US residents allegedly
linked to terrorism could be deported on the basis of secret
evidence, while members of the supposedly terrorist groups would
be denied entry to the US. The compromise version retains a
provision added by House Republicans to allow state prisoners
just one habeas corpus appeal to federal courts. This
dramatically limits the ability of prisoners facing execution to
appeal their convictions. The bill gives federal security
agencies almost $1 billion additional funding over the next four
years for "antiterrorist" activities. [WP 4/19/96]

On Apr. 18 Senate Democrats tried to restore other measures
proposed by Clinton to extend federal wiretapping authority and
to involve the military in investigations of some crimes. The
Republicans defeated the Democrats' efforts. "It's kind of the
world turned upside," remarked Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a
conservative co-sponsor of the bill, noting that now the liberals
were the ones supporting wiretaps while some conservatives
opposed them. [NYT 4/18/96] [New York Times columnist Anthony
Lewis writes that recently Clinton issued an executive order
authorizing physical searches without a court order to get
suspected foreign intelligence information. Lewis calls this "an
extraordinary assertion of power, without legislation, to
override the Constitution's protection of individuals' privacy."
[NYT 4/15/96]]

Congress slipped a provision into the bill to allow the summary
deportation without judicial review of anyone who has ever
entered the US illegally. This would in effect give immigration
officers arbitrary power over hundreds of thousands of cases,
including many political asylum requests. [NYT 4/19/96] Dan
Kesselbrenner, director of the National Immigration Project of
the National Lawyers Guild, notes that many undocumented
immigrants from Europe enter legally with a tourist or student
visa but stay after the visa has expired. The people who enter
illegally are generally from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Kesselbrenner calls the law "discriminatory" and says: "It isn't
accidental that they're doing this to people who are generally of
color, against people from this hemisphere." [La Jornada (Mexico)
4/19/96, quotation retranslated from Spanish]

*2. LANDLESS PEASANTS MASSACRED IN BRAZIL

On Apr. 17, agents of Brazil's militarized police attacked a
group of 4,000 landless peasants who were waiting for
transportation to a demonstration, killing at least 19 people and
wounding at least 50. The massacre took place in the municipality
of Eldorado de Carajas, Para state, where some of the
demonstrators had been occupying land.

The landless protesters had set up roadblocks on the highway that
connects Belem with the southern part of the state, and were
demanding that the state provide them with transportation which
would take them [our sources diverged on this point] either to
Maraba, where they were to meet with representatives of the
National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA),
or to Belem, the state capital, where a demonstration was
planned. When the Para government agreed to send 50 buses, the
demonstrators removed their roadblocks and began waiting at the
side of the highway. [El Diario-La Prensa (NY) 4/19/96 from AFP,
4/21/96 from AP; Inter Press Service 4/19/96; New York Times
4/21/96; United Press International 4/18/96]

"A sergeant from [nearby] Paraopeba arrived at the camp an hour
before [the massacre] and said a bus was coming to take a
delegation to Maraba, to conclude negotiations on the Macaxeiras
ranch," explained Airton Paleiro, director of the National
Confederation of Agricultural Workers (CONTAG). [UPI 4/18/96]
Some 1,500 families have been occupying the Macaxeiras ranch, in
the nearby municipality of Curionopolis, while they negotiate
with state authorities on their resettlement; about 2,500 members
of these families were taking part in the demonstration on the
highway. [International Secretariat of OMCT/SOS-Torture Case BRA
190496, 4/19/96] "But when the buses arrived they were filled
with police who came out firing," said Paleiro, who described the
police action as an ambush. "One police detachment came from
Maraba, and another came from the other side, from Paraopeba," he
added. [UPI 4/18/96]

"The police arrived firing tear gas bombs and shooting at
peasants," explained Gustavo Filho, coordinator of the Landless
Movement (MST). Filho said police hid the bodies of several
victims, including that of a 3-year-old child. [UPI 4/18/96]
According to Filho, many of the victims were killed in their
houses or in the surrounding jungle, without having resisted
police. [IPS 4/19/96] The chief of security in Para, Paulo Sette
Camara, said it was possible more bodies could be found, "because
many of the wounded fled into the jungle when the shooting
intensified." [UPI 4/18/96] On Apr. 19, President Fernando
Henrique Cardoso sent army troops into the area to search for
victims. [ED-LP 4/20/96 from Notimex]

Paleiro said that peasant leader Oziel Alves Pereira was shot
twice and killed inside a vehicle after the military police had
arrested and handcuffed him. [UPI 4/18/96] At local hospitals,
doctors confirmed that some of the victims appeared to have been
executed. [NYT 4/21/96] An investigative commission of federal
deputies also confirmed, after visiting the morgues, that some of
the victims were executed. [ED-LP 4/20/96 from Notimex]

Para security chief Sette Camara initially claimed the shooting
started when the police "met with gunfire from armed peasants,"
but this version was proven false by a videotape of the events,
filmed by the TV Liberal television team. Filho charged that the
police used threats of violence to seize the videotape. "A TV
Liberal journalist and her team filmed it all. You can see the
military police arrive, shooting. She shouts at them not to
shoot, because there were a lot of women and children around, but
they arrested her and took the videotape," Filho said. [UPI
4/18/96] Footage of the massacre was shown on national television
in Brazil on Apr. 18, provoking widespread public outcry. The
film showed that the police were shooting machine guns into the
air as they arrived, and that when the demonstrators approached--
some of them throwing stones--the police fired directly into the
crowd. [NYT 4/21/96]

President Cardoso condemned the police action and described the
marchers' demands as "a just cause." [UPI 4/18/96] On Apr. 19,
Cardoso pledged to speed up passage of two bills that had been
stalled in Congress: one that would allow military police to be
tried in civilian courts in cases involving civilians; and one
that would accelerate the legal procedures for government
appropriation and redistribution of unproductive land. [NYT
4/21/96; Voice of America 4/19/96]

But CONTAG secretary Francisco Sales called Cardoso "the main one
responsible [for the massacre], for slowing down agrarian
reform." [UPI 4/18/96] According to INCRA, nearly 800 families in
Para state have already received land under an accord that calls
for 1,800 families to be settled by the end of May. INCRA denies
claims by the MST that it is behind schedule on the distribution.
[VOA 4/18/96] Brazil has one of the most uneven land
distributions in the world, with 45% of the land belonging to 1%
of the population. [NYT 4/21/96]

Para governor Almir Gabriel said he felt "desolated by the
exaggerated reaction of the military police." [UPI 4/18/96]
Gabriel said he ordered clearing of the roadblocks by peaceful
means, but did not authorize the massacre. [VOA 4/18/96] [In any
case, the protesters had already cleared the roadblocks when the
massacre happened.] Gabriel has dismissed the colonel in charge
of the operation, and has ordered both a military and a civil
investigation. "We will pursue this case vigorously, and at the
end of the investigation, punish those responsible and make an
example of them," said Gabriel. [VOA 4/19/96] The massacre was
committed by the fourth battalion of military police in Para
state, under the command of Col. Mario Colares Pantoja. [OMCT/SOS
4/19/96; ED-LP 4/19/96 from AFP]

Gabriel also ordered state health officials to give priority
treatment to the people wounded in the incident, and said the
state will pay pensions to the relatives of those killed. [VOA
4/18/96] Gabriel and Cardoso both belong to the Social Democratic
Party of Brazil (PSDB). [IPS 4/19/96] MST leaders say Gabriel
bears part of the blame for the massacre because he authorized
the police to use force against the demonstrators. The MST, which
is pressing for faster agrarian reform, says police around the
country have killed 700 of its members in the past decade. [VOA
4/19/96] On Aug. 9 of last year, at least 11 people were killed
in a similar massacre carried out by militarized police against
squatters in Rondonia state [see Updates #289, 290, 293].

On Apr. 19, hundreds of campesinos held demonstrations in Belem,
capital of Para state; in the federal district; and in the states
of Rio de Janeiro, Espirito Santo and Rio Grande do Sul, to
protest the government's agrarian policy and to demand punishment
of those responsible for the Para massacre. [ED-LP 4/21/96 from
AP] In Belem, the crowd clashed with the militarized police when
they tried to invade a police barracks, but no one was seriously
hurt. [ED-LP 4/20/96 from Notimex]

A week earlier, on Apr. 10, the MST led a "March for Agrarian
Reform and Against Unemployment," a nationwide mobilization of
nearly 10,000 people to hold demonstrations in 18 state capitals.
In Sao Paulo, some 800 of the landless demonstrators took over
the INCRA offices, and in Curitiba and Belo Horizonte, hundreds
camped out in front of the agency's offices. MST leader Gilmar
Mauro, who led the march of 3,000 people in Sao Paulo, explained
that the purpose was "to bring the debate on the agrarian
question to the cities." Mauro estimates that last year at least
100,000 families left the countryside to live in the outlying
slums of the cities; he explained that this migration puts
additional pressure on already-overcrowded cities. [IPS 4/12/96,
4/18/96] A day after the massacre, on Apr. 18, the MST mobilized
more than 10,000 people for an occupation of the Giacometi farm
in Rio Bonito de Iguazu, in southern Brazil. [IPS 4/18/96]

The MST won one of its demands when on Apr. 19, Cardoso accepted
the resignation of Jose Eduardo de Andrade Vieira from his post
as Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. Andrade, a
prominent banker and landowner, insisted that he had already made
the decision to resign when the massacre occurred. [ED-LP 4/20/96
from Notimex; Diario Las Americas (Miami) 4/20/96 from EFE] The
MST has also been demanding that INCRA be removed from the
control of the Agriculture Ministry. [IPS 4/12/96]

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