The Quedas do Iguaçu Massacre

Terra de Direitos

The case which became known as the Quedas do Iguaçu Massacre is a reflection of intensified criminalization of social movements by the State. This reached absurd levels in 2016, with the accomplishment of the coup d’état in Brazil and the lack of public investment in agrarian reform programmes, which in turn contributed to the worsening of land conflicts. It is, moreover, an assault on the democratic principles on which the Brazilian State is based and on the civil and political rights of human rights defenders who dedicate their lives to the fight for democratization of access to land. 

In April 2016, following a brief period of relative “peace’’ in rural areas, the Paraná Military Police once again began victimizing landless workers in Paraná state, this time at the Dom Tomás Balduíno encampment located in the municipality of Quedas do Iguaçu.  

The encampment is located at the rural property known as Fazenda Rio das Cobras, the registration documents of which were declared null and void by a recent ruling of the 2nd Cascavel Federal Court in a case filed by the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA). The area has been exploited for years by the Araupel company, which works with timber and its by-products, causing a series of environmental impacts owing to the replacement of native forestland with pine tree monoculture.  

On April 7th 2016, a group of around 40 men and women landless workers was making its way towards one of the gates that provides access to the rear of the Dom Tomás Balduíno encampment, when it was taken by surprise by the Military Police Motorized Tactical Patrol (ROTAM) and Environmental Patrol, accompanied by an Araupel company security guard. When the police caught sight of one of the cars in which the workers were travelling, they began shooting with real bullets in the direction of the workers who were not carrying weapons and who ran towards the forest in an attempt to save their lives. Workers Vilmar Bordim, aged 44, and Leonir Orback, 25, were shot and died at the site. Pedro Francelino and Henrique Pratti did not manage to get away and were arrested, accused of being caught in the act of attempted manslaughter, even though they had been shot in the back and were not carrying arms when they were arrested.

Four independent investigations were set up to ascertain what happened: IPL No. 30032/2016 (Civil Police); IPL No. 80/2016-DPF/CAC/PR (Federal Police); IPM No. 251/2016 (Military Police); Criminal Investigation Procedure No. MPPR-0117.16.000073-5 (Paraná State Public Prosecutor’s Office – Special Organized Crime Combat Action Group - GAECO). Terra de Direitos has accompanied the legal and political developments of the massacre since the beginning, denouncing internationally the human rights violations committed by the State and the Military Police in the region, disputing public opinion and giving visibility to the agrarian conflict that exists and providing legal aid to victims and family members.