Marielle Franco – martyr of the struggle for land



Marielle Franco's death can be attributed to the land dispute, one of the hallmarks of social conflict in Brazil


On March 24, a Federal Police operation arrested three suspects of being the intellectual authors of the murder of councilor Marielle Franco (PSol-RJ). They are the brothers Domingos Brazão and Chiquinho Brazão. At the time of the crime, Domingos was an advisor to the Rio de Janeiro State Court of Auditors. Chiquinho Brazão was a councilor in the Rio de Janeiro City Council.

Another prisoner in the operation was delegate Rivaldo Barbosa, appointed as head of the Rio de Janeiro Civil Police by General Braga Neto, public security intervener in the state, a week before the death occurred. Investigations revealed that Braga Neto had been warned by the head of the intelligence sector of the state's Civil Police, Richard Nunes, that there were suspicions of Rivaldo Barbosa's relationship with the militia. And that is why he advised against his appointment as head of the Civil Police. Even so, Braga Neto supported his nomination for the position. Rivaldo Barbosa was an important player in the murder, using the privileged position conferred by his position to disrupt and delay the investigations.

The journalistic coverage of the case in the major media outlets has prioritized, in its approach, the profound deterioration of Rio de Janeiro's political-administrative institutions. Once again, the capture of State apparatus by militias and organized crime became evident. The very cause that motivated the plot to murder Marielle Franco is treated almost as an accidental detail.

According to investigations, one of the causes, or the main cause that would have motivated the criminals to plot the death of Marielle Franco, would have been their role in combating spurious interests of the Brazão family, related to the use and allocation of urban land in the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro. Rio, a region notoriously controlled by the militia. Some aspects of the investigation reveal that Marielle Franco did not play such a decisive role in disrupting the Brazão business. For the Federal Police, a member of the militia infiltrated the PSol of Rio de Janeiro to follow the steps of Marielle Franco, would have overestimated and even invented facts about the role of the councilor in her political actions in the Chamber.[I]

It doesn't matter, however, whether the information passed on by the militiaman infiltrated in the PSol was true. What really matters is how they were received and understood by the Brazão family. According to a statement from an advisor to Marielle Franco, Chiquinho Brazão was extremely angry with the PSol bench and with the councilor in particular, for having voted against the project. Therefore, without any doubt, the death of Marielle Franco can be attributed to the land dispute, one of the hallmarks of social conflict in Brazil. Conflict that opposes the interests of large estates, in rural areas, and real estate speculation, in urban areas, to the interests of the working masses.


It is important to highlight that the conflict over land, in the countryside and in the city, has intensified in the last two decades in our country. The current stage of capitalist accumulation in Brazil, supported by export agromining and real estate speculation, both connected in different ways to the national and international financial system, needs to expand capital's monopoly over land and natural resources. The result is the permanent conflict between urban and rural latifundia on the one hand and, on the other, peasants, squatters, quilombolas, indigenous people, riverside dwellers and residents of irregular housing in the cities.

According to data from the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT).[ii] in 2022, 1.572 land conflicts were recorded in the Brazilian countryside. This number is almost double the 804 conflicts registered in 2013. The CPT survey indicates that in 2015 the number of registered conflicts was 829. From 2016, the year of the coup against Dilma, there was a jump in conflicts of the order of 35%, jumping to 1.123. Since then, conflicts have never been below a thousand records, the record for which was 2020, with 1.628. There was also a significant increase in conflicts over water, which jumped from 104 in 2013 to 225 in 2022.

Another piece of information that reinforces this perception of the growth of land conflicts can be proven by data from the Zero Eviction Campaign website and the National Mapping of Conflicts over Land and Housing.[iii] There are currently 358 thousand urban and rural conflicts over land ownership in Brazil. Comparatively, Dieese research for the year 2022[iv] pointed to a total of 1.067 strikes in Brazil in that year. This total is below the more than 2 thousand strikes registered by Dieese himself in 2016. We cite the strikes as a reference, as they are the most classic conflict between capital and labor. It is demonstrated how the conflict over land occupies a great central role in Brazil.

The cause for this, in our view, lies in a structural trait that historically marks the dominant Brazilian relationship with the people and the country, since colonization and even after Independence. Our role in the international division of labor is to supply agricultural and mineral raw materials, supported by the overexploitation of the people and the monopoly of land ownership. Data from Oxfam Brasil show that in our country, agricultural properties over a thousand hectares, representing 0,9% of rural properties, account for 45% of the total rural area.[v]

Without completely breaking its subordinate and peripheral insertion in the imperialist system, with the country specializing in producing agro-mineral items demanded by the central powers and with almost zero technological density, control of territories destined for this role becomes fundamental. The monopoly of land and natural resources requires a permanent movement of expropriation of small peasant owners, or members of traditional communities such as indigenous people and quilombolas.

Contrary to popular belief, the primary expropriation of land was not a historical event located in the remote past, but it is an essential condition for the development of capitalism and the imperialist system. He's everywhere. Whether in the genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza at the hands of Israel; be it the death of indigenous Yanomami people in the Amazon at the hands of miners, whose gold nuggets are then sold by international brands;[vi] whether in the grabbing of urban land in Brazilian cities or in changes to master plans that serve the interests of real estate capital, which opens space for the expansion of FIIs (Real Estate Investment Funds), a variety of securities offered on the stock exchange that covers 2,5 million investors and an invested volume of R$129 billion.[vii]


To this end, state and parastate violence, or the combination of both, in a promiscuous relationship between the different branches of the State, large estates and criminal groups, plays a fundamental role. Recent cases exemplify this promiscuity.

Last January, in the south of Bahia, gunmen working for farmers from the ruralist and paramilitary movement “Invasão Zero”, supported by military police, attacked the Caramuru/Paraguassu Indigenous Land. The attack resulted in the death of Nega Pataxó, an important indigenous leader in the region.[viii] In April last year, Luiz Uaquim, main leader of “Invasão Zero” in Bahia, surrounded an MST occupation in the state in an area destined for agrarian reform. A leaked audio revealed that the ruralists would attack the landless together with the Bahian military police.

In Mato Grosso, another state in which the conflict over land opposes landowners and indigenous people, the promiscuous relationship between the police and ruralists also prevails. In an article published in Brasil de Fato, Eloy Terena, coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, stated that “The military police, as part of a private militia for farmers, promote evictions without a court order. It's become routine. A state where agrobanditry prevails at the cost of indigenous blood.”[ix]

Another example of this relationship comes from Rio Grande do Sul. In February 2023, an operation by the Public Ministry of Labor freed from captivity, in Rio Grande do Sul wineries in Bento Gonçalves, 207 workers in conditions similar to slavery. The rescued workers denounced the collusion of members of the Military Brigade with the wineries, who acted as henchmen for the companies, by threatening and even beating workers who complained about working conditions and accommodation.[X]

Without exaggeration, Marielle is another martyr in the struggle for land. But journalistic coverage prefers to focus on the illicit relationship between the militia and the different branches of the State apparatus. And they do so for obvious reasons. The large communication companies in Brazil have interests linked to exporting agromining, which automatically aligns them with imperialism, which leads them to defend the ongoing reprimarization of the Brazilian economy, which makes us regress to a semi-colonial condition.[xi] Article published on the website of Diplomatic, in 2018, shows how the interests of the mainstream press mix with those of agromining.[xii]

That is why the editorial line of the mainstream press is focused, as we indicated above, on the illicit relationship between the militia and State apparatus. The coverage of Marielle's death will never be presented as a result of the land conflict, as this means putting into question large estates and real estate speculation, with their violent methods and promiscuous relationships between private capital and public power (police, judiciary, executive and legislative powers). , in the dock.

*Renato Nucci Jr. He is an activist with the communist organization Arma da Crítica.














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