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From the Front Lines -- Letter from a Brazilian Bishop concerning the dispossession of Brazilian farmers financed by a joint venture of Brazilians and Japanese interested in cash farming for export crops.

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From: D. Heriberto Hermes heribert@brnet.com.br

May 25, 1998

Dear Friends,

Info on our Home Pages:

1) http://www.dhnet.org.br/w3/cristal/ Home Page with map, history, pastoral structure, etc. of the Prelacy (Prelature) of Cristalandia

2)http://www.dhnet.org.br/w3/cdhcto/ Home Page of the Cristalandia Center of Human Rights, with history, Scandals in Tocantins, Denunciations, Campaigns, etc.

3) http://www.dhnet.org.br/w3/prelazia/ Home Page with a "blow-by-blow" account of the mounting of the other two Home Pages, to serve as an aid or model for other bishops or whoever wants to make Home Pages.

Fraternally,

+Herbert Hermes, O.S.B.

Bishop of the Prelacy of Cristalandia

Bishop who accompanies the CPT (Pastoral

Land Commission) in the state of Tocantins

(affiliated with CNBB --National Conference

of Bishops of Brazil)

Coordinator of Cristalandia Center of Human

Rights (affiliated with National Movement for

Human Rights of Brasil)D. Heriberto Hermes wrote:

May 20, 1998

Dear Family and Friends,

Those of you who sent letters to Gov. Jose Wilson Siqueira Campos may have received a response from Sebastiao Vieira Melo, "Comunication Secretary" (government Spokesman) for the state of Tocantins, entitled EXPLANATIONS ABOUT LAND DISAPPROPRIATION FOR THE IMPLANTATION OF THE "CAMPOS LINDSO FRONTEIR POLE". Some of you also apparently received this response in Portuguese.

DO NOT BELIEVE IT! It is an attempt to cover up a grave injustice by half-truths, evasions and "untruths" -- or, in plain English, outright LIES! To try to "justify" the injustifiable! The following is a translation/transcription of a letter to the editor of the Jornal do Tocantins, official government newspaper, in which the above article ("paid material") was published in the March 12 issue. The letter was written by the Redemptorist priest, Fr. Bernardo Holmes, C.Ss.R., but WAS NEVER PUBLISHED. Here is what Fr. Bernardo says (quote):

1) In August of 1994, Siqueira Campos, then candidate for Governor of the state of Tocantins, promised, in Campos Lindos, that as soon as he became Governor he would "give legal title to all of the squatters". Almost four years have gone by and NOT ONE SQUATTER has received legal title! The Governor knows, and even says in the newspaper article (published in the name of the Government Spokesman, Sebastiao Melo) that the "squatters" have been there for decades and "suffer the perverse effects of social exclusion". And even so has not fulfilled his campaign promises!

2) In the governmental decree and the judicial process of disappropriation (which have already taken place), the "squatters" ARE NOT EVEN MENTIONED -- as if they don't even exist! Last Saturday, March 11, we visited Campos Lindos, and were informed by the "squatters" that until that day NO ONE FROM THE GOVERNMENT HAD EVER MET WITH THEM, OR EVEN COMMUNICATED TO THEM IN WRITING OR EVEN INFORMALLY, what is going to happen to them! Yet, the paid newspaper article says that the "squatters" are regularly being informed of what is taking place"! In a private conversation with the Most Rev. Joao Jose Burke, O.F.M., the Governor assured the Bishop that he would resettle the "squatters" in another area and give them legal titles to that land. Yet the Governor told the Mayor of Campos Lindos that he would let the "squatters" stay where they are! Who can understand such contradictory affirmations?

3) In the official newspaper, Jornal do Tocantins, of March 27/28, the President of CAMPOS, a government organ which administers the PRODECER III project (soybeans for exportation to Japan) in Pedro Afonso county, is quoted as saying, "(we are) trying to get, from private Japanese banks, part of the R$120,000,000 (one hundred and twenty million reais -- somewhat less than $120,000,000) for the implantation of an agricultural project in Campos Lindos." And yet the paid article SHAMELESSY DENIES "any internal or external financing"! Another blatant contradiction!

4) I personally assume responsability for any and all information contained in the original protest letter, signed by me, by the Bishop, Most. Rev. Joao Jose Burke, O.F.M. and by Fr. Jaco, C.Ss.R. I do not consider myself to be "a foreigner", as the paid article labels me, since I have been in this area since 1961 and Fr. Jaco has been here since 1962. For the past five years I been actively working here and accompanying the people in Campos Lindos. Bishop Burke has also visited here frequentently and personally knows the people and situation of Campos Lindos. The false promises of government officials and their lies, plus the suffering, insecurity and FEAR of losing everything on the part of the "squatters" forced us to protest and to let the world know what is going on.

Sincerely,

Rev. Bernardo Holmes, C.Ss.R.(end quote)

As you can see, the government response is not the Good News of a just and humanitarian solution to a gross violation of human rights and injustice, but a diabolical attempt to, as we say in Brazil, "shut out the light of the sun with a sieve"! The corrupt government has the political power, the money and the mass media on it's side, but we have the TRUTH and, thank God, INTERNET, on our side!

Fraternally,

+Herbert Hermes, O.S.B.

Bishop of the Prelacy of Cristalandia

Bishop that accompanies the State Pastoral

Land Commission

Coordinator of the Cristalandia Human Rights

Center (affiliated with the National Movement for Human Rights in Brazil)

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