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Brazil Journey Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Criminals cash in on land reform
Aracruz: An 87 year-old Tupiniquim Indian leader says he can't write and won't vote Canudos: Paulo meets island-dwelling Marciano, who follows a 19th Century messianic leader Salvador: Traditional street vendors want a president who will give them a monopoly on bean fritters Pernambuco: A community descended from escaped slaves fights for access to its own land Eldorado dos Carajas: Where land reform has brought soaring crime Serra Pelada: Small-scale gold diggers win a 10-year mining rights battle Brasil Novo: A remote jungle town longs for electricity and a surfaced road Santarem: Canvassing votes by river boat at the heart of the Amazon jungle Belém: The city where a councillor with one arm is spearheading the fight for disability rights Belém-Brasilia highway: Two days with a trucker on Brazil's damaged and bandit-ridden roads Brasilia: The scavengers who live off the capital's waste Sao Paulo: The city 'island' dwellers who will have to travel for four hours to vote

Report five: Eldorado dos Carajas

As Brazil gears up for presidential elections in October, BBC Brasil's Paulo Cabral travels through remote mountains, arid countryside and deep jungle to find out what 21st Century politics mean in the Brazil that normally goes unreported.

Six years ago the workers of Eldorado dos Carajas fought the military police for their land - but now they want the authorities back to clamp down on thieves and drug dealers.

Police cars parked in the Eldorado dos Carajas region
Police say robbers and drug dealers have taken over the area
Nineteen rural workers died in confrontations with police as they campaigned for land reform in 1996.

But now the crime rate is soaring on the swathes of land eventually seized by the government for redistribution.

Many of the peasants who first settled the land have left. Those who remain long for police to establish law and order.

When I arrived, 20 trucks filled with police and agents from Incra, the Brazilian institute responsible for land reform, had just driven into the city.

The authorities were launching a big operation on the 60,000 hectare Bamerindus farm, which was supposed to have become a model settlement when it was appropriated by the government in 1998.

"The goal of this operation goal is to reinstall public order," said federal officer Claudio Dornelas.

"You can see that here there are people who have no links to the land. They are criminals, robbers and drug dealers that have dominated this area," he said.

A house in the Eldorado dos Carajas region
Many settlers have moved elsewhere
"There have been registered car and motorcycle thefts, kidnappings and murders. We're also investigating information about some marijuana plantations."

And as I left, he warned me to be careful in the region. "Be alert, like a rabbit," he said.

The director of the Association of the Settlers of the Bamerindus Farm, Eduardo Lira, said the criminals had moved in as the settlers deserted their land.

"The settlements are almost totally abandoned. The people get disappointed and begin planting marijuana. And there are some criminals that flee the city to hide around here," he said.

But he said the Bamerindus farm is not the only one with problems. "The situation is bad in a lot of settlements around here," he said.


Mr Lira hopes the authorities' actions will enable the settlers to receive state help and to increase production.

Presidential election
First round: 6 October
Run-off: 27 October
Key candidates

Key presidential candidates:

Jose Serra - ruling centrist coalition
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - Workers' Party
Ciro Gomes - centre-left Labour Front coalition
Anthony Garotinho - Socialist Party candidate
"When we came here, in 1998, this was supposed to be a model settlement. The farm was already producing cocoa and bananas and had grass for the cattle. But with all these problems, of the 400 settlers who were here, 300 have already sold their land and moved elsewhere," he said.

Despite the still fresh memory of the 1996 violence, the remaining settlers are asking for help and want a police presence inside the farms.

"We feel fine when we see some authority here. We are not afraid," he said.

Key stories





See also:

20 Aug 02 | Americas
04 May 00 | Americas
19 Jul 02 | Americas
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