Brazil: occupied area conflict, 2 deaths

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

GOIÂNIA, Brazil — Yesterday the Brazilian police removed families who have illegally occupied an area in Goiânia, Goiás state, Brazil. The occupiers resisted and there was a conflict which resulted in 2 deaths, with at least another 45 injured and a further 800 arrested according to recent reports in Brazilian newspapers.

The occupation was coordinated by the regional branch of the Movement of Workers Without a Roof. The occupied area was in Parque Oeste Industrial, in Goiânia. There were 2,862 families (men, women and infants) living there according to the government of Goiás and 4,000 according to the movement's leaders. The area had been under occupation since May 2004. The expanse is 891,000 m² as stated by the newspaper Diário da Manhã. They named the area Condomínio Sonho Real (Real Dream condominium).

Failure by the occupiers to obey a court determination to leave the area resulted in the use of the police force to enforce the Law.

The serious conflict began yesterday (February 16, 2005) at around 9:20 AM when about 500 policemen from the Battalion of Shock entered the area to remove the families. The Battalion of Shock is a specialized Military Police unit set up to deal with activist conflicts.

The trespassers were expecting a frontal attack, however the police demolished a wall at the rear with the help of a front-end loader and surprised them. The resistance didn't last long and by 11:00 AM all occupiers had been removed.

Guerrilla tactics were used by the occupiers. They dug 70 cm deep trenches, prepared hidden traps with props of wooden and metal, built barricades with stacks of tires, stones and other materials. Some dwellings were incinerated and they used molotov cocktails and other self-made bombs. Scythes, hoes, machetes and guns were also used.

The police commander, Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Elias, said that lethal weapons were not used by the police. The shots which were heard during the conflict originated from the members of the movement gun's.

Pedro Nascimento, aged 22, and Wagner da Silva Moreira, aged 20, both died during the conflict. Police claim they were victims of friendly fire. The injured were transported to hospitals. Four of those hospitalized required intensive care.

The Secretary of Public Security of Goiás, Jônathas Silva, considered the operation a success. "We would not like that it had victims, but unfortunately the occupiers were armed," he said.

The police arrested two leaders of the occupation: Américo Rodrigues and Agildo Wagner Jaime. Another 21 leaders escaped and they are being pursued by the police.

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