Residents of the Pinheirinho slum argue with police blocking access to their homes in Sao Jose dos Campos
Residents of the Pinheirinho slum argue with police blocking access to their homes in Sao Jose dos Campos Reuters

Amnesty International has criticized an operation by Brazilian police to clear out an illegal slum settlement on the outskirts of the city of Sao Paulo.

About 2,000 police officers and riot troops forcibly removed about 6,000 people and their belonging on Sunday from the Pinheirinho slum in Sao Jose dos Campos in order to return the land to its private owners. Clashes between police and residents resisting the eviction led to at least thirty arrests.

The eviction represented the culmination of a lengthy legal battle between the illegal squatters and administrators for the bankrupt investment firm that owned the land.

Established in 2004, the Pinheirinho squatter camp became a home to thousands of people, and even had its own church and shops.

While officials said the police operation was justified and lawful, Amnesty countered that the forced evictions violated a raft of international standards and recommended that local authorities quickly address the needs of the families left without homes.

Atila Roque, director of Amnesty International in Brazil, said in a statement: “The [police] operation was carried out in a deeply inappropriate manner: early in the morning on a Sunday and without any adequate warning. It was pushed through even though negotiations with authorities to find a peaceful way out were ongoing.”

Roque added: What is happening in Pinheirinho is part of an unfortunate pattern of forced evictions in Brazil. As the country booms, tens of thousands of poor families are being removed to make way for infrastructure and private development projects, without receiving adequate protection and alternative housing. The Brazilian authorities… must actively engage with the residents to find a long-term solution that suits their needs -- not temporary spaces in shelters which split up families.”

The Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), a Brazilian movement that defends the rights of landless workers characterized the forced removals as an act of war.