Two years without Dilma Ferreira: Know the trajectory of struggle of the defender of the Amazon territory

Learn a little about the history of the MAB militant brutally murdered on March 22, 2019

On March 22, two years ago, we lost our companion Dilma Ferreira Silva, a MAB activist in Pará. In his honor, a short biography, originally published in the booklet Our fight is for life, Enough of impunity! edited by the Movement of the Affected by Dams in 2019.

We are the Marys!  We are the real marias, warriors, fighters who are there in the challenge of the day-to-day struggle.”(Dilma Ferreira Silva, National Meeting of Women Affected by Dams, Brasilia, April 2011)

Dilma Ferreira Silva was born on February 11, 1972. A tireless fighter, she never bowed her head before the injustices, because, from her birth bed, in Esperantinópolis, in Maranhão, she cultivated hope – not that of the verb to wait, but that of the verb to hope, as Paulo Freire taught us. Mother of a daughter had as one of its main characteristics empathy with the suffering of the most humble. She was a fearless woman in moments of struggle and at the same time quite playful.

In search of better living conditions for her family and moved by the promises of employment arising from the construction of the Tucuruí dam locks, Dilma left Maranhão and moved to the city of the same name, in Pará. He went to live in the neighborhood Palmares, an occupation in the periphery and began to face, on the skin, the contradictions caused by the hydroelectric power plant in the territory: on the one hand, the wealth produced by one of the largest plants in the country, on the other, the misery and denial of rights suffered by those affected, many of whom have never had any rights guaranteed.

The Tucuruí hydroelectric plant is one of the many infrastructure projects initiated in the military dictatorship, at a time when little or nothing was discussed about the problems of this type of “development”. The plant, belonging to the state-owned Eletronorte, is considered the second largest in the country, with 8,370 Mwh of power, and is located on the Tocantins River, about 300 km away from Belém, capital of Pará.

Tucuruí is an emblematic case of violation of human rights in the construction of dams, as stated in the report published by the Council for the Defense of Human Rights on the subject in 2010.

The struggle of Dilma

Rousseff became involved in the Movement of the Affected by Dams and began to denounce the violations of the rights of these populations historically denied by the Brazilian state. In 2005, Dilma was invited to join the regional coordination of the MAB, in Tucuruí. Because it stands out in the work with the families affected, especially with women, from 2006 also joined the Collective of Women of the movement.

The organization of those affected in the MAB enabled some achievements in the region, especially projects for income generation. Dilma was at the forefront of the process of forming a cooperative for the creation and commercialization of fish. He also organized the distribution of food baskets to the families who needed them the most and collaborated with a project for the construction of cisterns, achievements of the struggle, and the organization of the MAB in the region.

In 2011, Dilma Ferreira, as a member of the movement’s coordination, participated in the National Meeting of Women Affected by Dams, which brought together more than 500 women in Brasilia. It was there that she met her namesake, President Dilma Rousseff. On this occasion, Dilma Ferreira was responsible for delivering to the president the agenda of claims of the Movement, which called for the creation of the National Policy of Rights of People Affected by Dams (PNAB) and denounced the risks of the deployment of another large hydroelectric plant in the Amazon, Belo Monte. This agenda remains unmet by the Brazilian government.

In the last period, Dilma lived in the settlement Salvador Allende, in the rural area of the municipality of Baião, also in Pará. The settlement was the result of the occupation of the Piratininga Farm by families organized in La Via Campesina. From 2013, Dilma participated in this process in the organization of families to ensure this achievement. After the settlement, Dilma began to dedicate herself to the cultivation of the land and the organization of a MAB base group on the site.

The crime: murdered our companion

Brazil carries the burden of being the country where more human rights defenders are murdered. In this context, the highest index concerns militants who play a fundamental role in the struggle for the right to land, housing, and the environment, especially in the Amazon.

Rousseff was brutally murdered in the early hours of March 22, 2019, inside her residence, in the Salvador Allende settlement, along with her companion, Claudionor Costa da Silva, and a friend of the couple, named Hilton Lopes.

The suspect of being the mastermind of the deaths is the farmer Fernando Ferreira Rosa Filho, better known as Fernandinho. He is also investigated for having killed three caretakers who were his employees and were dissatisfied with the labor reality to which Fernandinho submitted them.

This crime occurred on the eve of Dilma’s murder. In addition, two months earlier, peasants gave an interview to the Real Amazon portal and reported that the accused had shot a leader of the National Front of Field and Land Struggles. The victim survived the attack, but the case was not investigated.
According to investigations and technical reports still ongoing, Dilma was tied, gagged, tortured and there is suspicion that she was also raped before her neck was cut. All indications suggest that the crime committed was not simply an execution, but a hate crime committed against a militant woman, who legitimately occupied territory of interest to the main suspect.

The case became an enigma for the state and social movements because there is no news of agrarian conflict currently in place. After all, the settlement where Dilma lived was already regularized since 2011. Although the land was public, INCRA paid more than 1 million reais for the 7,270.44 hectares to the self-proclaimed owner. However, several witnesses reported that the interest of Fernando Ferreira Rosa Filho was more specific: he aimed to build a clandestine airstrip for drug trafficking in the area of the settlement.

After national and international repercussions of the case, the governor of Pará, Helder Barbalho, ordered the creation of a Civil Police task force to investigate the case. The delegate-general Alberto Teixeira, from what was collected in the police reports, believes that it was not interesting for Fernandinho to have social leaders living in the vicinity of his “business”, as well as wanted to silence the employees who threatened to sueHe’s in Labor Court.

The arrest of Fernandinho was announced on 26 March, even before the arrest of the perpetrators of the crime, five people, of whom four are brothers. The quick arrest of the boss showed that when there is the political will of the rulers, it is possible to elucidate this type of crime. The hired gunmen were Valdenir Farias Lima and brothers Marlon Alves, Cosme Francisco Alves, Alan Alves, and Glaucimar Francisco Alves. Valdenir confessed to participating in the crime, claimed the participation of the brothers, and confirmed that the mastermind of the deaths would have been Fernandinho. Of the executioners, two are in prison, two have been killed and one is on the run.

The murder of Dilma, Claudionor, and Hilton is considered the first massacre of agrarian conflicts in the country in 2019. The case had international repercussions and generated a wave of demonstrations of solidarity with Dilma’s family and the MAB. It also shed light on the increase in violence against human rights defenders, especially in the Amazon, at a time when the Brazilian government itself has suggested that criminals can count on impunity.

A life of struggle so that the waters are for life and not for death

Dilma’s murder is another sad moment in the history of the MAB, which celebrates World Water Day on March 22. It is also another case of violence in the countryside, authorized by hate speech and the negligence of the current federal government.

For MAB militants and human rights defenders, the murder of one more companion means that the popular struggle for the right of the people is an invitation to the donation of life for the cause of the workers.

We reaffirm our commitment to continue fighting for the rights of those affected, in defense of life and against the privatization of water. They won’t shut us up, we’ll be like water, no matter how big the walls, they’ll never be able to stop our strength.

Dilma Ferreira, present, present, present!

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