This one is worth a thousand words

March 12, 2008

Hats off to Luis Vasconcelos for this powerful picture.

The caption says, “An indigenous woman holds her child while trying to resist the advance of Amazonas state policemen who were expelling the woman and some 200 other members of the Landless Movement from a privately-owned tract of land on the outskirts of Manaus, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon March 11, 2008. The landless peasants tried in vain to resist the eviction with bows and arrows against police using tear gas and trained dogs. REUTERS/Luiz Vasconcelos-A Critica/AE (BRAZIL)”.

Images of heavy-handed oppression really don’t come much better than this – defenceless, screaming woman clutching naked child is shoved and beaten by faceless, armoured authority.Belter

The symbols are reinforced by the strong composition. The woman and her child appear all the more vulnerable as the only elements of humanity and colour against the advancing wall of shields and boots.Such a potent image leaves very little room for any doubt. In such circumstances do we need to know the details of the dispute to have any doubts that what we are witnessing is wrong?


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Here’s an idea…get off land that doesn’t belong to you…another idea, don’t hold your kid when you decide to attempt blocking a wall of police who are just doing their job…..evicting trespassers.

Its a nice picture and all but has anyone considered that the baby could be a fire bomb and that she is about to blow up all those innocent soldiers? I think we can all learn an important lesson about taking things at face value.

Posted by Mycroft Holmes | Report as abusive

I would like to respond to the “You can’t steal private property” argument.

Yes stealing land is terrible.

So is genocide.

It’s also terrible if your parents, grand parents, and your great great grand parents stole land and handed it down to you or someone that looks like you.

One person argued that it isn’t fair for a group of people to steal something for which someone else worked really hard.

I think thats a great argument if you add some historical context to it.

The majority of land owners in Brazil did not in fact “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps”, work hard in a factory and eventually earn enough to buy a plot of land. This isn’t a middle class story about being a self made citizen. Land was taken at gun-point, and handed down through the generations, or handed off to big industry. It is indisputable that the poverty of the landless is a direct result of past and present injustices.

So what’s fair? A few rich people/corporations having small amounts of land taken away that they in no way deserve to have in the first place, or the picture?



Posted by jacko | Report as abusive

“do we need to know the details of the dispute to have any doubts that what we are witnessing is wrong?”

Yes, you do. Furthermore, I’d be surprised if you didn’t call the cops yourself if you had 200 squatters on your lawn.

Posted by haelduksf | Report as abusive

All you commenters saying she should be arrested for putting the kid in harms way….you have no idea what life is like for the poor in third world countries. Constant police action against the poorest, willy-nilly with no consistency or reference to law at all. I’m appalled at the naivete shown here…you all should get out a bit more…too bad flying is getting so expensive….traveling and seeing Brazil (or any third world place) would broaden so many horizons here.

Posted by third world | Report as abusive

You all seem obsessed with the facts vs the apparent context. I think the publisher of the image hit the nail on the head, instantly. What is inarguable is the faceless, clearly malicious, strength thrown against this woman.

Deciphering more is to put one’s own views in, and that is called spin.

Know the facts? Who cares – what system, where the rule of law prevails and human rights are sacred, would ever employ such a method? Look at modern-day England – nothing like this could ever happen.

Before you say too quickly she’s part of a terrorist organisation or campaign, remember Nelson Mandela – he educated the world that maybe it’s correct and appropriate to fight hard for your rights.

So for all of you that don’t slam the forces behind the oppression: shame on you, and may your wicked thinking weave its way into unfortunate events for you in the future.

Posted by Walter Billington | Report as abusive

It is easy to an European to call the Landless movement ‘semi-terrorist’, the poors as ‘squatters’ and to say one has the right to defend the ownership (property).
You will not understand couse in your Countries, the Agrary Reform was done since Centuries, it was already by you, not so in South America.
You can not, and will not understand why the owners are named ‘Coronel’ without beeing Military. They were robbing the Land since Centuries! They did not buy any land, they occupied it. And not little, but in millions of Hectares, each.

To the numbers: government owned land
– 1950: 80% of 8 Billions of square Kilometers
– 2000: 40% of 8 Billions of square Kilometers (Mostly Amazonas now).

But interesting: The government never, ever sold land!
Digg for the word ‘Grileiro’, and maybe you could see the picture!

Violence against the Landless are crime!
Viva o movimento dos Trabalhadores rurais do Brasil

Posted by Marlon | Report as abusive

I don’t know anything about the landless movement, but I doubt most of the posters do either, and it is in that spirit that I respond:

Damn, what disgusting capitalist sentiment in the comments here. I believe in free markets too, but not at the expense of all compassion. You are like the cops in some cities, harassing the homeless wherever they happen to be: public property, private property, developed or undeveloped, it doesn’t matter because no matter where they are, they don’t own the land. How dare a person that cannot afford land go to sleep anywhere! What are those “terrorist” homeless people thinking?

Powerful. It will not be seen in the United States as Brazil is too strong an ally to the West. We will continue to ignore such atrocities as usual and our leaders will continue to wonder “why do they hate us?”

Posted by Levi | Report as abusive

MST is so NOT a terrorist organization. They are a movement that does do things like “squat” on land that isn’t being used, and use it for farming or self sustaining. These are people that have no homes and are largely shut out from the urban cores of Brazil, and are doing anything they can to survive. As a movement, there have been tiffs between the police and them when they raid encampments trying to force people to go some where else, but I can assure the police always are the ones who are injuring people and leaving behind a body count. For many of these people, the MST is the only voice and political organization, and source of food there is.

Anyone who has been to Brazil knows that it is a highly divided society, and it has built literal walls between the rich and poor segments.

Finally, for those people talking about stealing land, land in brazil, particularly in acre and amazonas is getting stolen by large companies in Brazil and abroad and being re-appropriated for there own use. If there is a rule of law, it is unilaterally being applied to people who can afford to wield the system.

Posted by dmh | Report as abusive

“It is easy to an European to call the Landless movement ’semi-terrorist’”

(Sorry for the broke english I will use.)

I am brazilian and it´s easy to me also call the MST (Landless movement) a ‘semi-terrorist’ movement.

I am son of a farmer and I a saw a neighbor of our farm being invaded by the MST. My neighbor’s farm wasn’t a big farm and wasn’t unproductive by any means. The MST stole my neighbor cattle, his house and destroyed his truck and tractos before some judge send the police to help him.

A lot of those ‘landless guys’ were known criminals from the closer city and a lot of others were only poor people the MST recruit on the favelas (that have 99,99% of urban persons who simply don’t know how to raise vegetables of take care of farm animals).

Another stuff a saw with my own eyes is how fast the MST people sells the land the goverment give then. I saw a farmer from nearby my dad’s farm, literally double his lands by buying more lands from the ‘landless’ (much of then engage at the MST again, seeking for raise the money with the next land).

I’m a son of a farmer and I am pro land distribution reform, as well my dad, but it must be made by the right channels, not by ‘semi-terrorist’ acts.

Another little thing I think you don’t know, the MST tortured and killed a police captain in the northeast region here in Brazil, their former-leader was on jail by some murders too. They are involved with hundreds of other murders, property robbering, vandalism and other crimes. The MST is in truth a kind of proto-FARC from Brazil, we really worry about the evolution of that.

Posted by Gustavo | Report as abusive

“In such circumstances do we need to know the details of the dispute to have any doubts that what we are witnessing is wrong?”

Not giving us any details whatsoever makes this an extremely IRRESPONSIBLE article!
I’m not going to even try to give an opinionated comment on a photo that is 500% out of context on this page.

Posted by Simon | Report as abusive

powerful indeed. the image is not threatening to the governments, corporations and the wealthy elite because it blatantly exposes the inhumane injustices they inflict on the women, children and people of the world.

this women didn’t put her child in danger. it is the government and wealthy, corporate-privatizing-fat-cat-greedy individuals who harm, displace, impoverish, steal, and mass murder million of people all around the world.

out of the 6.4 billion people in the world, half live on less than $2 a day. one-fourth of the world live on less than $1 a day. 70% of those living on less than a dollar a day are women.

the landless movement along with the other oppressed people of the world have a right to live a life with justice, dignity and freedom of violence.

Posted by makibakagal | Report as abusive

“is there something I can do?”
Yes, vote with your money: buy mainly things from your own country; buy fair trade stuff; try to keep an ecological life and most important…
stop wasting resources!
We, westerners are the direct or indirect cause of problems in most countries.

Posted by twopeak | Report as abusive

Wow. Amazing photo. To anyone that has blamed this woman for her actions. She’s doing this because she’s desperate. Where is she meant to leave her defenceless child whilst she’s being evicted from land? Why is she squatting on private land in the first place? Because 2/3rds of the arable (land that has potential for planting crops) land in Brazil is owned by 3% of the population.

So 97% of the population are forced to share 30% of the land.

Some people may call the MST Terrorists, I’d call them Revolutionaries.

Posted by Itsumishi | Report as abusive

It’s easy to blame victims. One doesn’t have to look at their own privilege at the expense of others.

This photo could have been taken anywhere in the developing world. As the young father of five former guerilla turned fourth grade teacher in Guatemala told me last week, “Business is the government, the government is business. It’s all the same.”

So who speaks for the people? There is a reason people become guerrilas.

Posted by Harry Coverston | Report as abusive

This photo is incredible. I didn’t knew that reuters has it’s own blog.

How could she? Shes not supposed to be there! “Protesting!” and with her baby. Why didn’t she prearrange a baby sitter?? lulz
Im sure she has MTV Tr3s for the sitter to watch?? Why cant she just move somewhere else. Or buy her own 500 hectares of land. This land was bought by someone else. duh. Its not like she has any natural right to live on the land where her ancestors and genetic makeup have been for millennia. Before a foreign human virus came to proclaim and instate the idea of “private property” Plus, she is a “terrorist” or at least part of a group of people who realize that the only way to stop a violent, oppressive, and militarized force, is through the systematic use of tactics, that by some, are deemed as “terrorism”.
Maybe she could just rant about it on her blog???

“Where is the story about the person who worked hard to buy this land and then watched it get trampled and used by these squatters from the Landless Movement? Perhaps I could feel more supportive if they settled on Public Lands rather than stealing resources from another individual human being.”

This comment is so ludicrous that I think it may be a joke, but I’m going to treat it as though it is someone’s actual opinion. Any land that was “purchased” by anyone was at one time stolen from indigenous Brazilians. Period. The natives are the rightful “owners” of the land, although “stewards” may be a better choice of words, since indigenous people traditionally have no concept of ownership or individual property.

Posted by Emily | Report as abusive

I cannot imagine what would drive me to gather the courage to do what this woman did. Amazing image.

Genetic engineering is WRONG. Beating a defenseless a woman is WRONG. Genetic engineering is violence against nature and humanity. It is wrong to destroy research. It is wrong to destroy nature. VIOLENCE IS WRONG AND NEVER JUSTIFIABLE. No matter what side you are on.

“How can anybody own any part of Earth? You can own only what you made with your own hands which is also doubtful because you need materials produced by Nature (God) to make anything, even a child. This “civilization” will end like many similar before.”

No, Robi, not like many before. The end of this civilization will be so much worse than anything that’s been recorded by man. Blame overpopulation and complete lack of regard for this bubble which is all that supports us.

My main question to all you “conservatives” (as in, I conserve everything for myself) is: how many Brazilians who work hard have enough money to buy land? It’s a near universal truth that those who work hardest cannot climb out of poverty. Unless you call sitting in an office where your dad got you a job “hard work”. Even in the US, that’s pretty much a bad joke.

Go get a soul.

Posted by lolo | Report as abusive

photographs really talk about reality and touch lives.

I think that the photo is great. However, merely looking at the picture and then assuming that one can easily judge the morality of the situation is ridiculous. Yes, the photo is dramatic. Yes, there is text-book juxtaposition. But to say that the picture proves that squatters should be allowed to take what is not theirs makes no sense.

It is too bad that Brazilian laws do not aid the Landless Movement more adequately so that they do not need to break the law. But they are. This is simply a picture of one woman (of many) involved in a large scale eviction.

In response to the original question, “do we need to know the details to know that this is wrong?”, the answer is Yes! Would you have faith in the fairness of a court decision if you knew the judge was never present for the trial? Maybe, the picture in question is of a human right violation or maybe of a severe lack of empathy but to judge that we need not question the circumstances is blatant naivety.

Posted by Capt. Dallas | Report as abusive

This photo is stunning! And unfortunatelly it depicts very well what’s going on in Brazil. I sincerelly hope to see this extraordinary photography among the awarded ones when they decide which is the best picture of the year, at the Grand Prix of Photo-Journalism competition.

Posted by Josh Silva | Report as abusive

The photo is great. But i feel sorry with that woman and her child

By viewing this photo zhe first thing I asked myself was “What has happend to this woman and her little child after taking that photo?” Can anybody tell me?

Posted by Thomas Rausch | Report as abusive

agree on this, I think you don’t need to have a caption, because images speaks to itself.

The land owner exploits the land according to regulations, leaving 60% of the original rain forest in place. The invading MST cut down large parts of the forest, thus forcing the authorities to take measures to avoid criticism from countries that cut down their own forests hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Dramatic photo but not depicting what really happened. Countless efforts have been made to offer these groups vacant lands that they can exploit, but they insist on invading the most productive and lucrative, fully equipped plantations. Also, you can hire these groups if you are in project development. They will secure ownership (after 5 years of occupation) and take care of environmental issues (maximum construction %) for you. No government wants to be associated with photos like above, so they are mostly left alone. Good business!

Posted by Marcos | Report as abusive

Pictures speak louder the words and captions and mothers are stronger then those will, Thanks Reuters

Posted by DubaiHotels | Report as abusive

Picture paints a thousand words wedding photography san diego me

Posted by newey200 | Report as abusive

When the first person who thought of building a fence and placed it around his home to form a perimeter that was when the first land was stolen from all others,and the age of ownership and greed came into the world.

Posted by samurai8 | Report as abusive

We should not forget that the native brazilians were there first and that the brazilian government is one of the most corrupt institutions in the world and the interest of the the big corporations will always come first.

Posted by maronati | Report as abusive