Anti-Colonial Events in Brazil

by | 11 Jun 2013


In the colonial countries, on the contrary, the policeman and the soldier, by their immediate presence and their frequent and direct action maintain contact with the native and advise him by means of rifle butts and napalm not to budge. It is obvious here that the agents of government speak the language of pure force. The intermediary does not lighten the oppression, nor seek to hide the domination; he shows them up and puts them into practice with the clear conscience of an upholder of the peace; yet he is the bringer of violence into the home and into the mind of the native.

Frantz Fanon

In the past week, our famous evening telenovelas lost their appeal as the dramatic colonial battle in Sidrolândia, Mato Grosso do Sul, unfolded. For a while now the most important political events in Brazil have been indigenous protests against the Dilma’s administration economic policies and projects. After months of legal battles and repeated occupations of the site of the Belo Monte Damn, another mode of anti-colonial protest can no longer be ignored by the Brazilian State. Invasions (reclamation is perhaps a better term) of farms, in traditional indigenous land already in process of repatriation, in different parts of the country, suggest a country-wide political response to Brazil’s economic development programme, and its demand that even more land be appropriated for agricultural production and exploitation of natural resources.

The radical nature of these indigenous political actions was already evident even before the deadly confrontations in Fazenda Buriti, in Sidrolândia, in the past few days. The shootings that killed Oziel Gabriel and injured Josiel Gabriel were the latest on the over 500 year old series of scenes of colonial violence, involving the Brazilian State  and  indigenous and runway slaves communities. A possibility the Terena leaders had already anticipated not long ago, as recalled the journalist Ruy Sposati:

On November 19, 2009 even with a favorable ruling tenure, indigenous people were forcibly evicted by about 30 farmers and 60 policemen [in Mato Grosso do Sul]. For fear that history might repeat itself, the Terena requested the presence of a delegation of foreign observers in order to restrain alleged violations by the apparatus of state repression (Brasil de Fato, 6 June 2013).

Last Wednesday, these recent political events playing on the Brazilian colonial stage became all the more dramatic as 110 troops of the Força de Segurança Nacional (National Security Force) were deployed in Mato Grosso do Sul. As of now, there is no indication or hope that the troops are there to protect the Terena protesters — the only ones affected by the deadly violence in Mato Grosso do Sul — who have invaded the farm, demanding immediate repatriation, 3 years since the Ministry of Justice had recognised their claim to traditional ownership of 17,200 hectares in Sidrolandia. Arriving with the Federal security troops, however, the representative of the Brazilian State said that it’s time for talking:

We will engage in dialogue, conversation, calmly — that is the guidance of President Dilma. We came here to discuss and join forces. Violence does not resolve conflict situations. Rather, it undermines, it disrupts. (The Minister for Justice, José Eduardo Cardozo,  Folha de Sao Paulo)

Dialogue, negotiation, compromise, and similar jewels of the liberal lexicon, as Fanon has suggested, have no meaning in the colonial text. Neither Cardozo’s nor Dilma’s obsessive repetition of the term ‘dialogue’ suggests a meaningful gesture — such as, to abide by the judicial decision and issue an order for immediate repatriation — from the Brazilian State. The Brazilian State cannot deliver policies or measures able to prevent its own recourse to colonial violence, that is, the unmediated political force supporting the expropriation of the productive capacity of indigenous land and of African and black labour. Why? Because in the newly refashioned State-Capital duo, States like Brazil have been assigned the task of implementing economic development programmes that rely primarily  on the exploitation of natural resources and agricultural production for biofuel and food for export.

What most watch unfold in the mainstream media in Brazil are snippets of a live colonial plot, one which exceeds but is not antithetical to (because it plays out alongside, because it is part of the same political theatre) the liberal text that serves the State’s main task, which is attending to the needs of Global Capital.

Denise Ferreira Da Silva is Professor of Ethics and Director of the Centre for Ethics & Politics, Queen Mary, University of London

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