[11/30/2005] MST Informa #104 – SPECIAL EDITION – Official Response to the Congressional Committee of Inquiry on Land Issues

The Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), by way of this message, expresses its indignation toward the majority decision of the Congressional Committee of Inquiry on Land Issues (CPMI) who, fulfilling the criminal and hateful objectives of the UDR (Rural Democratic Union) and its allies, acted against the stated purpose of the CPMI. The CPMI was established to diagnose Brazil’s land structure and the processes of Agrarian and Urban Reforms and to propose solutions to the problems identified.

The official responsible for the Committee’s investigation, Federal Deputy João Alfredo (PSOL/CE), presented an in-depth diagnostic report on Brazil’s agrarian situation and presented an array of suggestions for enforcing the Constitution, that is to say, how land in our country is to be democratized. This is the reason the Ruralist Block, who make up the majority of the Committee, reacted against the report by directing their ongoing efforts toward criminalizing social movements in the countryside and delegitimizing the activities of those who struggle for Agrarian Reform in Brazil.

The vote of Abelardo Lupion (PFL/PR), a well known deputy tied to the UDR and who is currently under investigation by the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) for corruption during electoral campaigning, represents the distorted vision of the backwards-thinking landowners of our country who ignore the situation of social exclusion of over 4,000,000 landless families in Brazil. They remained silent regarding the 12,500 slave laborers who have been freed in the past three years from over 400 different estates using slave labor; silent regarding the frightening number of workers killed in the past 20 years, 1,500 of them; silent regarding private militias armed to protect the landowners; silent regarding the concentration of land; silent regarding the falsification of land claims; silent regarding the misappropriation of public funds from SUDAM (Superintendent for the Development of the Amazon).

The partiality is clear when one analyzes the allocation of public funds to a number of entities. It is impossible to ignore the fact that the three entities supporting Agrarian Reform in the CPMI received 4% of what the entities tied to the Ruralist Block received in 10 years. The latter entities received a total of R$ 1,510,000,000.

The partiality is made especially clear in the attempt to denounce leaders of the MST to the Public Ministry without providing any concrete evidence that would legally oblige the Ministry to investigate these workers.

The position held by the Ruralist Block has already been analyzed on a number of occasions by Tribunals in our country. These Tribunals rejected the possibility of criminalizing rural workers for the act of occupying latifúndios (large landholdings). The Tribunals also recognized the legitimacy of this type of act as an effort to ensure the Constitution is enforced.

The dispute that occurred in the CPMI represents the ideological clash between the large landowners and the landless families who struggle for a dignified life in the countryside. The majority of these large estates, as has already been made clear, are unproductive and many of them use slave labor and/or disrespect the environment. All of these aforementioned characteristics make these lands eligible for the purposes of agrarian reform, as is stated in the Constitution.

Statistics from INCRA (the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform) show that 51.4% of estates classified as large landholdings are unproductive, that is, over 133,000,000 hectares of land do not meet the productivity requirements and should be expropriated for purposes of agrarian reform. These statistics also show that 1.6% of landowners with lands over 1,000 hectares possess 46.8% of all the land in the country.

After making 43 trips to nine of Brazil’s states, taking testimony from 125 people and analyzing close to 75,000 documents, the investigation pointed to an enormous degree of land concentration, falsification of land claims, violence in the countryside and the use of slave labor as central problems, and proposed a number of solutions.

There is a need for a massive agrarian reform of quality through the fulfillment of the goals of the 2nd National Plan of Agrarian Reform (PNRA), signed by the Federal Government, and consisting of the settlement of 400,000 families currently encamped throughout the country. Only 45% of the goals have been reached with only a little more than one year left until the end of the government’s first term of office. For the goals to be met a land registry must be compiled and productivity indices must be updated, indices that are over 30 years old.

The Chamber of Deputies, who are supposed to represent the Brazilian people, has demonstrated once again that it is a tool of defense of the powerful in our country, the powerful who resist the implementation of Agrarian Reform. The Movement rejects the positions taken by the report that has been approved and reaffirms its commitment to the struggle so that the over 4,800,000 landless families can achieve Agrarian Reform.

National Coordinating Body of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST)

Access the original (Portuguese) version of the above article:

Download João Alfredo's findings (in Potuguese) on the need for Agrarian Reform:

See the BBC's coverage of this issue:

1) Landless Worker assassinated in Alagoas

Jaelson Melquíades, member of the MST’s Coordinating Body for the State of Alagoas, has been assassinated in the municipality of Atalaia, a forested region of the state. Jaelson, age 24, was murdered by two gunmen while he was visiting the Education Center of the MST’s São Pedro Settlement. Just four months ago, landless families won the right to this land and established the São Pedro settlement.

For more information, see:

2) In Pará, 772 rural workers have been killed since 1971

The report “Violation of Human Rights in Amazônia, conflict and violence on the Pará border‿, launched on November 28, by the Pastoral Commission on Land, Land of Rights, and Global Justice, shows that Pará is the state with the most killings of rural workers. In the last 10 years, an average of 13 persons have been killed every year. The document will be handed over to various ministries and UN representatives.

For a copy of this report (in Portuguese), see:

3) Superior Court of Justice grants habeas corpus for MST members

Towards evening on November 29, Minister Paulo Medina of the Superior Court of Justice, granted habeas corpus to 4 MST activists. Clédson Mendes, José Rainha Júnior, Manoel Messias Duda and Sérgio Pantaleão were sentenced to 10 years in prison, accused of arson and robbery during a land occupation in Sampaio, in Pontal do Paranapanema, São Paulo. Cledson had been held since October 31. “The convictions were politically motivated‿, states Patrick Mariano, from the MST Human Rights Sector.