Photo: Raul Montenegro/Right Livelihood Award Foundation

Jair Bolsonaro accuses Right Livelihood Award Laureate of terrorist acts

Press releases 23.10.2018

Brazil’s presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro intends to classify all activities by the Right Livelihood Award Laureate Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais sem Terra (MST) as terrorist acts. The Right Livelihood Award Foundation expresses its deep alarm over Mr Bolsonaro’s statement and calls on him to respect the vital work of land and environmental defenders, and their struggles in the name of social justice and human rights.

Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of The Right Livelihood Award Foundation, commented:

Jair Bolsonaro’s allegations are extremely distressing. Not only because they violate Brazil’s domestic and international commitments to fundamental rights and freedoms and basic principles of democracy, but also because it reinforces the criminalization of social movements in the country and the region.

On the 21st of October, one week before of the second round of the Presidential elections in Brazil, presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro has publicly declared that, if elected, he intends to classify all the activities of MST as terrorist acts.

In his statement, he reassured his constituency that workers from MST can no “longer propagate terror” and guaranteed that, if he is appointed the president, the MST will be incarcerated. Earlier in his campaign, he had also affirmed that if it was up to him, the members of the MST “would be fought by righteous citizens with a rifle.” These alarming declarations add to the list of anti-democratic statements by which he has promised to “put an end to all activism in the country”.

In 1991, MST received the Right Livelihood Award for their work with landless families in Brazil and their sustainable farming practices, in a country with one of the most inequitable land distributions in the world. And in a recent statement concerning Brazil’s presidential elections, the MST has stated:

“In our 34 years, we have always defended democracy, human and social rights. In this period, we also learned in practice that the discourse of state violence always reaches the poorest. Therefore, our side has always been that of life, struggle, justice and democracy.

In recent years, Brazil has been ranked the world’s deadliest nation for land and environmental activists. Activists are exposed to threats, harassment and executions on a daily basis.  According to Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), who also received the Right Livelihood Award Laureate in 1991 together with MST, violence against peasants and landless workers reached a record of 71 murders in 2017, the highest number registered since 2003.

“The preaching against the right of minorities (…) and the transformation of the struggle for land into acts of terrorism, and the proposal to ‘put an end to all activism in Brazil’, is a clear discourse of disregard for human rights, a disregard for democracy (…) Defending the fight against violence through the use of violence is a safe-conduct for the use of more violence. An unlimited spiral of violence!”, said CPT in its press release.

Fabiana Leibl, Protection and Advocacy Manager at the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, commented:

The Foundation joins its Laureates and the thousands of civil society organisations from Brazil and abroad urging the Presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro to respect the vital work of land and environmental defenders, and their struggles in the name of social justice and human rights. It further calls on the candidate to align himself with the principles of democracy and the rule of law which are cherished by the Brazilian population and the international community.

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