Federal representatives Zucco (Republicans – Rio Grande do Sul) and Ricardo Salles (Liberal Party – São Paulo), president and rapporteur of the Parliamentary Investigation Commission (CPI) of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), respectively, prepared an environment of war to receive João Pedro Stedile, leader of the movement that declared this Tuesday the 15th before the Commission.
On the eve of the testimony, Salles and Zucco decided that the session would take place in Plenary 4, which has a capacity for 80 people. Plenary 2, where committee meetings are normally held, has a capacity for 150 people. Behind the scenes, it became clear that the measure was taken to prevent MST militants from occupying the room and influencing the atmosphere.
Before the start of the session, Salles and Stedile had already met near the door of the plenary session and had exchanged a handshake, provoked by Roberto Podval, lawyer for the MST leader, but who also advocates for the former minister. After greeting each other, they both smiled.
Stedile received instructions from his defense team and advisers from the movement to avoid provocations and jokes with the Bolsonaro shock troop. He would not answer personal questions either, leaving the statement limited to his career as a militant and leader of the movement.
:: MST ICC proceeding goes to camp outside the planned route and prevents the press from accompanying him (available in Portuguese) ::
In general, Zucco places the deponent next to the rapporteur, so that Salles can question the witnesses more closely, imposing himself physically. However, interlocutors from the federal deputy and from Stedile thought it appropriate to intervene, so they sat on opposite sides of the table. This is how it was done: the former Minister of the Environment was on the left and the leader of the landless peasants on the right.
After half an hour of intervention at the opening of the session, a statutory right of the rapporteur, Salles asked for another 30 minutes, which were approved by Zucco. As time stands still during the declarant’s response, the former Minister of the Environment spoke for three hours, assisted by the 29 federal deputies registered in the Commission.
Stedile responded to each question by delving into the subject, developing theories and putting on the table arguments in defense of the agrarian reform. To the surprise of the government and opponents, he was not interrupted by the Zucco-Salles duo.
:: At the MST ICC, Paulo Teixeira denounces that the TCU took the ‘wrong’ measure by suspending the agrarian reform in 2015 (available in Portuguese) ::
Over time, the tactic adopted by Stedile’s defense of avoiding confrontation and irony, a resource enjoyed by the MST leader, worked and the session, which needed to be on to please far-right networks, It was lukewarm, stagnating in the ignorance of the Bolsonaristas.
After Salles’s long intervention and the calm of Stedile, who remained unperturbed by questions from the opposition, the Bolsonaristas began to leave the session. Of the shock troop of the extreme right that participates in the commission, generally in a strident way, drew attention to the fact that the federal deputies Gustavo Gayer (Liberal Party – Goiás), Zé Trovão (Liberal Party – Santa Catarina) , Marcos Pollon (Liberal Party – Mato Grosso do Sul) and Capitão Alden (Liberal Party – Bahia) left before their names were announced and did not want to confront the leader of the landless.
After more than six hours of session, the ruling party and the MST leadership left relieved, with the feeling that Stedile’s statement had put an end to the ICC. “The deputies of the agromilitary base did not expect this testimony. In fact, the ICC served for the MST leaders to tell the story of the movement and its purposes. This ICC ends today, from now on it is all talk. Today was the closing with a golden key,” said Ney Strozake, lawyer for the MST leader.
Deputy Marcon (Workers Party – Rio Grande do Sul) confirmed the feeling that the work had finished. “This ICC may have ended today, but they are going to whine until the last moment and there is also the Salles report, which will criminalize the MST. Let’s wait, but that’s it, now we just have to wait for the report,” he said.
Background of the MST ICC
Announced as a possibility by the Bolsonaristas since the beginning of the year, the MST ICC became a reality in April 2023, a period in which the already traditional day of struggles of the landless peasants in memory of the Eldorado do Carajás Massacre takes place. , when the movement occupies unproductive areas with no social function in different regions of the country.
Among the pro-government supporters, the ICC was expected to turn into a circus, with inflammatory speeches for social networks and the attempt to impose narratives. The start was given by the commission’s rapporteur, Ricardo Salles, who said on Tuesday, upon his arrival at the National Congress, that he intends to “establish the idea that in Brazil there is a law that protects private property.”
Since the news of the installation of the Commission was known, lawyers from different parts of the country have offered help to the movement. Among them, the Prerogatives Group, of which Marco Aurélio Carvalho is a member, who spoke to Brasil de Fato about the line of defense of the movement at the ICC, which contradicts the rapporteur’s thesis.
On May 2, the Association of Judges for Democracy (AJD) issued a statement condemning the creation of the ICC. According to the movement, the Commission is of “dubious constitutionality” because it was established “without a concrete fact and with the improper purpose of ‘investigating’ a legal person under private law.”
The initiative would be, according to the ABJD, “one more step in the process carried out by the neoliberal right to persecute, discredit and demonize social movements,” says the note from the jurists, for whom the ICC is developed “as a stage due to political disputes on issues such as the struggle for land and territory and the strategy of criminalizing the leaders of the movements that organize rural workers, seen as enemies”.
For João Pedro Stedile, the ICC was created to try to destabilize the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Workers’ Party). “They want to incriminate the government. (The ICC is) much more, from the point of view of the political struggle, against the government than against us. It’s like telling the government: ‘don’t advance in the agrarian reform, don’t present a plan of agrarian reform, don’t help the MST,'” he added.
Read more: ‘We will overcome another attempt to criminalize our struggle,’ MST says after ICC installation
Editing: Nadini Lopes and Vivian Virissimo