A post published on social networks by the Bolsonaro government this Wednesday (28) in reference to Farmer’s Day generated a series of protests among rural associations, members of agrarian struggle entities and Internet users on social networks. The message chosen by the Administration’s Special Secretariat for Social Communication (Secom) brings a picture of the silhouette of an alleged farmer with a shotgun on his shoulder in the middle of a plantation.
Organizations such as the National Confederation of Agricultural Workers (Contag) reacted to the initiative. The organization’s secretary for Agricultural Policy, Vânia Marques Pinto, classifies the message as “absurd” and observes that the advertisement directly dialogues with conflicts in rural areas, a theme in which Brazil has a negative historical prominence.
“We didn’t expect it, but it’s not surprising given the kind of government we have. However, it is absurd to associate a farmer with the image of a jagunço, of an armed person, inciting violence in the countryside”.
In a note published shortly after the post of the administration, the National Coordination of Agroecology (ANA) repudiated the initiative and called it “warlike and disrespectful”.
“By using the image of a hunter carrying a rifle in an African savannah, acquired in a paid image bank, the government demonstrates, once again, its ignorance of the reality of family farming in Brazil, marked by solidarity, generosity and dedication to providing real food for Brazilian families”, says the text, rejecting the symbol.
The photo chosen by Secom to illustrate the post was taken in South Africa and taken from an international image bank. Professor and researcher Helena Martins, from the advertising course at the Federal University of Ceará (UFC), emphasizes that the making of communication material of this nature goes, in general, through a broad process of analysis, as it is a content of institutional communication.
“A piece like this is designed, guided, evaluated, discussed and finally approved, therefore going through a complex hierarchical chain of definitions that end up leading to its publication”, explains the professor, who analyzed the material at the request of the Brazil in fact.
“It is necessary to keep in mind that, in communication, everything means. The colors, texts and images are chosen to generate a certain meaning that the message producer seeks to achieve”, explains Helena.
“In my view, the meaning that the government wanted to produce with this piece is very clear: it is the idea of, in fact, arming people, something that it is also doing through a series of policies. Furthermore, it reinforces the idea that [o campo] it is a space of conflict, and it sustains, naturalizes and legitimizes this conflict”.
Brazil is experiencing, during the Bolsonaro government, a scenario of escalating violence in rural areas. According to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), which has monitored the problem since 1985, the number of conflicts in the countryside registered in the country rose from 1,547 in 2018 to 1,903 in 2019, the first year of the former army captain’s administration.
In the interval between 2019 and 2020, the commission verified a new increase, with 2,054 occurrences notified. In addition, there were at least 50 murders in rural areas during the first two years of the Bolsonaro government, which also expanded access to firearms in the country, with rules that facilitate the acquisition and possession of this type of product.
The theme was also remembered in the post made by Secom on Wednesday, which highlights that the President of the Republic “extended the rural owner’s possession of a gun to all his property”.
For Alexandre Conceição, from the national direction of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), the post is a mirror of Bolsonaro’s administration, generally associated with discourses of criminalization of the agrarian struggle and rural organizations. The President of the Republic is a well-known opponent of the MST, for example, having already made different public nods in this regard.
“July 28 is Farmer’s Day, not sniper or militia day. So, it is regrettable, but, at the same time, it is understandable, because the government that is there is a militia government, a sniper and that invests in weapons while the country is going through hunger. With this image, he represents what he thinks of Brazilian agriculture, which is agriculture focused on land grabbing, snipers, killers, violence”, criticizes the MST leader.
The National Human Rights Council (CNDH) also reacted to the Secom post. The agency officiated President Jair Bolsonaro (non-party) on Wednesday to express concern and request information about the propaganda. The CNDH asked for explanations on why a photo with a firearm was used to represent the farmers and stipulated five days as a deadline for the return to the government.
After the negative repercussion, Secom deleted the publication, which had been published in the morning on the government’s institutional profiles on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
As a result, the agency posted another content, this time an image with statistics related to the agriculture sector. The post highlights land title concessions, numbers from the Safra Plan and also what the management called “land invasions”, a concept that the more conservative wing disputes with the progressive camp, where such practices are treated as “occupations”.
In general, rural movements organize occupations as actions of a political-ideological nature that draw attention to unproductive land properties that are generally located in areas originally belonging to the Union.
This type of practice, historically recognized as part of the booklet of popular agrarian entities, confronts agribusiness and aims to exert pressure so that areas dominated by speculators are referred to agrarian reform, which benefits peasants and small farmers. The policy is administered by the State through the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra).
“That’s why, looking at a post like the one the government released today, we understand that it is necessary to maintain our political orientation. It includes taking care of life, eating, distributing healthy food as a form of solidarity with those in need and continuing our fight against the latifundium and against the Bolsonaro government”, says Alexandre Conceição.
Edition: Vinícius Segalla