Brazil: Pinheirinho Videos ‘Cover-Up’ Leads Activist to Hunger Strike

The violent eviction of thousands of poor residents from their homes on land owned by the bankrupt estate of Naji Nahas, on January 22, 2012, is an event in Brazil that has become popularly known as the ‘Massacre of Pinheirinho‘.

It was photographed and filmed from various perspectives: from the day before the eviction itself, to the moments of panic among the population while becoming victims of police brutality in the city of São José dos Campos in São Paulo state, to the interviews conducted after the completion of the evacuation, with the poor people in precarious shelters being harassed by the police forces meant to protect them.

There was no shortage of reports of abuse of power and extreme violence, and allegations that many people had been injured and even killed, but no information was available from hospitals or the local Institute of Forensic Medicine (IML). Activist Pedro Rios Leão [pt] was in the city of São José dos Campos and interviewed dozens of residents who, on camera, talked about the existence of dead and wounded who were being hidden by the city and state governments.

Leão is now on hunger strike, chained in front of one of the entrances of the TV Globo television station [pt] in Rio de Janeiro, accusing the mainstream media of complicity in the “massacre” for having hidden the events or treated them as normal.

book user Rodrigo Ajooz, used with permission. On the sign one can read "For the deceased of Pinheirinho".

Pedro Leão on hunger strike in Rio de Janeiro. Photo of the Facebook user Rodrigo Ajooz, used with permission. On the sign one can read "For the deceased of Pinheirinho".

In a video, provocatelly titled ‘Eu queria matar a presidenta: depoimentos da guerra civil brasileira‘ (I wanted to kill the president: statements from the Brazilian civil war), Leão declares that it is a legitimate right to desire the death of those who bring death to the people. There is a touching piece of poetry created by Antônio da Silva [pt], an expelled resident of Pinheirinho, in the opening of the video.

Leão points to not only the township of São José dos Campos, nicknamed ‘São José dos Campos de Concentração’ (São José of the Concentration Camps) by many, but also the state and federal governments for what he considers to be their guilt in a crime against the people of Pinheirinho. He has declared a state of war against those complicit in the suffering of the homeless population and has begged for the Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to take action.

His video exposes the fear of the population in the face of the violence with which they are being treated, and collects numerous complaints to be urgently investigated. The church where villagers had taken refuge was the target of bombs and bullets – despite the denials of the local priest who later expelled [pt] the locals – and nearby a man was allegedly murdered by the occupying troops of the Pinheirinho. In the video, there are repeated reports of bodies “gone missing” from the IML:

YouTube user stresser recorded a video that shows the beginning of the hunger strike of Leão and his speech explaining the reasons for the strike:

And here is the second part, with an interview with Leão.

The Coletivo de Comunicadores Populares (Collective of Popular Communicators) [pt], fom the city of Campinas, in São Paulo state, recorded and edited the video ‘O Massacre de Pinheirinho: A verdade não mora ao lado‘ (The Pinheirinho Massacre: The truth does not live next door), so far available with subtitles in English, Spanish and French.

It has been viewed by more than 190,000 people, and features interviews with displaced residents of Pinheirinho denouncing atrocities committed by the Military Police on the first day of eviction. These include the use of pepper spray against pregnant women and children, intimidation, threats, tear gas, and bombs aimed at morale if not targets. There are also testimonies of people who, after being expelled from their homes, were refused the right to go back and get their documents, in the area organized by the city hall for registration of the displaced families.

The video also depicts the humiliated sense of the refugee population in a nearby church and shelters. Finally, the Collective summarizes the legal and political situation behind the whole operation, accusing the government of São Paulo and the local justice to be subject to the sale of the assets of bankrupt speculator Naji Nahas, against the public's interest:

The Collective also interviewed families the day before the eviction, on Saturday, January 21, “soon after the attempted repossession was frustrated by a federal injunction that forced the police to stop the operation.” The video, called ‘Onde estarão os Nobres? Uma família de Pinheirinho 1 dia antes do Massacre‘ (Where are the Noble? A family of Pinheirinho 1 day before the massacre) is the story of ordinary people about their situation and the fear they felt of losing everything:

The group Los solidários [pt], whose name is a tribute to an anarchist group that worked in Barcelona in the 1920s, collected images of the violent eviction punctuated by statements of Military Police Captain Antero, also head of communications of the prime minister, in order to show the discrepancies between the official action and discourse in a video called ‘O Pinheirinho é do povo! — crônicas do terrorismo do Estado‘ (Pinheirinho belongs to the people! – chronics of state terrorism).

The group also interviewed residents driven from their homes who reported the existence of many dead people, whose bodies have been hidden by the authorities. The group also sought information from hospitals about deaths and injuries but gained no access, and conducted interviews during the night after the eviction with residents visibly scared and fearful of their future:

The activist Hiure Anderon recorded two videos posted on his YouTube channel, with testimonials from mothers displaced from Pinheirinho, many with small children or pregnant women:

Rapper Davi Perez has recorded a song [pt] to honor the victims of the “Massacre of Pinheirinho,” reproduced by the blog “Solidarity with Pinheirinho Occupation”. Blogger Hugo Albuquerque meanwhile, has compiled a list in English and Portuguese on the ten most common lies told about Pinheirinho.

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