Twenty years ago, 21 members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) were slaughtered in the northern state of Para, while 69 campesinos were severely injured.
According to the official investigation, most of them were shot down at point blank range in the back of the neck on April 17, 1996 by over 150 military police officers - in what Attorney General Marco Aurelio Nascimiento called “a real bloodbath,” in an interview with daily Brasil de Fato.
One of the campesinos was killed with a knife, and was left with a third of his head cut, he added.
Survivors of the massacre recounted that the victims were among a group of 1,500 men, women and children, who were marching toward Para's capital, Belem, to protest against their eviction from a land lot known as the Hacienda Macaxeire in the town of Eldorado dos Carajas. The landless campesinos had been occupying the lot since November 1995.
After seven days walking, with little sleep and food, they decided to block the road in a bid to negotiate food and transport with the then Social Democrat governor Almir Gabriel (PMDB).
Instead, authorities ordered security forces to evacuate the road, at whatever cost.
Only two out of the 150 policemen involved in the massacre were sentenced to prison in 2012, in a trial heavily criticized by campesino leaders.
20 years later, landless campesinos continue to be targeted in Brazil, with 50 killed in 2015 across the country over land conflicts – the highest rate of murders recorded in the past 12 years according to the Pastoral Commission on Land. Most of them occurred in the Amazon region.
According to the MST, the impeachment procedure against President Dilma Rousseff carried out today and rural violence are “two faces of the same class struggle.”
“Far from the (presidential) Palacio do Planalto, the class struggle has been using firearms. In Quedas de Iguaçu (PR), the alliance of oligarchs and local governments killed two farm workers on Thursday April 7 in the same month in which we remember the 20th anniversary of the massacre of Carajás,” they said in a statement released Friday. “This tragedy shows how the elites react when they feel they are immune from punishment.”