MST Informa #191: Summary of the past year and perspectives for 2012
The year is ending and again we have the feeling of accomplishment for all the struggles, activities, and alliances that we’ve built and engaged in with all the various sectors of the working class. In another difficult year we had to carry out great struggles against agribusiness that continues its offensive against our lands, natural resources, and public investments.
Agribusiness, which is formed by an alliance of capitalist farmers with transnational corporations and finance capital, controls our agriculture and tries to reinforce its domination by resorting to initiatives on several fronts.
One of the priorities of agribusiness was the relaxation of the Forest Code. Brazilian environmental legislation, which is advanced in the sense of the environmental preservation, sustainable production, and income generation, is a barrier to the advance of capital in agriculture. The concepts of Legal Reserve and Permanent Preservation Areas are obstacles that prevent transnational corporations from taking over our land to implement the production of monocultures for export, based on the expulsion of families from the countryside and unlimited use of pesticides.
Senator Luiz Henrique’s bill based on the wording of Congressman Aldo Rebelo was approved by the Senate. It grants amnesty to farmers who cleared forest areas and removes the requirement to recover a large part of these areas. It creates the possibility that, by simply making a statement, a person can avoid the requirement to recover legal Reserve area and there is no mechanism to prevent further deforestation.
We were part of a large coalition that brought together the movements from the rural areas, family farming, the trade union movement, the groups for protecting the environment, scientists, artists and sectors of the Catholic Church, the organizations of lawyers and the judiciary to address the offensive of capital in agriculture and their representatives, namely the rural caucus in Congress. However, we did not have the strength to remove this bill from the Congressional agenda and pressure the government to take a strong position and fulfill the campaign promises of President Rousseff.
A vote on the bill in the House of Representatives is planned for the beginning of March. During this period, we have the task of putting together a campaign with the participation of all sectors allied in defense of the forests, to prevent the approval of the bill and to pressure the president to veto changes that would create conditions for expanding deforestation and control of capital over our agriculture.
Brazilian society is increasingly aware of the problems caused by poor nutrition and health problems especially with contamination by agrotoxins. The poisons help sustain the production model used by agribusiness, with the latifúndio, monoculture, and the expulsion of rural families for production aimed at export.
Since 2008, Brazil has ranked first in the world in the use of agrotoxins. More than 1 billion liters are dumped on plants. In 2010 the national campaign against agro-toxins was launched, with the participation of important groups like the National Cancer Institute (INCA), FIOCRUZ, and the Agency for Sanitary Vigilance (ANVISA).
Experts have pointed out the relationship between pesticides and cancer. Over the next two years, more than 1 million Brazilians will be diagnosed with cancer, according to INCA. Only 60% of those affected will be able to recover. The contradictions caused in the health of the entire population by the unlimited use of pesticides will lead society to question the agribusiness model, which besides imposing the concentration of land, the devastation of the environment and the expulsion of families from the countryside, contaminates the body of the entire population.
The offensive by the forces of capital and the lack of political initiative of the federal government have made 2011 another bad year for Agrarian Reform. Only 35 areas were transformed into settlements, benefiting only 6,000 families. The numbers correspond to 20% of that which ex-president Lula made in his first year in office, when 135 settlements were established, settling 9,195 families.
At the same time, 90 cases of expropriation of land are stalled on the desks of the Chief of Staff and the President of the Republic. For these cases that are technically completed, only the signature of President Dilma is need to turn them into settlements.
We carried out mobilizations all year to denounce the slowness of Agrarian Reform, INCRA’s ineffectiveness and the crimes of agribusiness. In April there were more than 70 occupations of latifúndios, besides marches and encampments in 19 states. In August, the movements organized by La Via Campesina held an encampment with four thousand rural workers in Brasilia, adding to the mobilization of 50 thousand small farmers in 20 states. These campaigns won important commitments from the federal government and won an increase of R$ 400 million for the budget to purchase land.
With the advance of capital in agriculture, carrying out Agrarian Reform depends on the struggle of rural workers with our occupations, marches, and protests as well as on a huge mobilization of Brazilian society for structural reforms that will be promoted through the organization and struggle of the Brazilian people in favor of a popular project for Brazil.
For this reason we have viewed favorably the increasing number of strikes and mobilizations by various categories for an increase in wages and improved working conditions as well as the student protests in the public universities.
The large corporations have profited greatly in the recent period with the growth of the economy, which creates better conditions of struggle for the workers. Although the majority of these strikes have an economic character, they show that the working class is in motion, opening up a horizon to intensify struggles and creating perspectives for a political discussion with Brazilian society about the need for profound transformations in our country.
Policies implemented by the government since 2003 succeeded in improving life for the population but structural changes were not carried out that could transform our country. To confront those issues, the organizations of the working class put together a political program, whose main points were the reduction of the work day to 40 hours without a wage cut, measures to ensure better working conditions and lower turnover, the allocation of 10% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for education, implementation of land reform and a ban on pesticides, urban reform that guarantees housing, reorganization of the transport system and better living conditions in large cities, a Progressive Tax Reform to tax those who concentrate income, wealth and income and the democratization of mass media.
The challenge is to build a large mass movement through the struggles of all the sectors that uphold these banners, a movement that is well-organized and strong enough to confront capital’s offensive and ensure victories for the Brazilian people. In the coming period, we are going to take part in these struggles and charge these commitments taken on by the government, with lots of struggles, occupations, marches, and mobilizations. We also have the task of advancing in the organization of our settlements to be a model for the production of quality organic foods for the Brazilian population, to organize the poor into new encampments and occupations and to make even stronger alliances with the working class in all the spaces. The commitments that we take on will be converted into concrete victories only by means of social pressure and unity in the program and in the struggle with other sectors of the working class.
If the slogan of this government is “Rich country without poverty”, we have to open the eyes of the Brazilian people to see that the agribusiness model of development based on the latifúndio, on export, on social exclusion, on the poisoning of nature and on the destruction of the forests cannot end poverty in the countryside because it is the very root of the poverty. With these struggles and campaigns, we are going to achieve more victories and society will understand that to fight poverty in the countryside is to carry out Agrarian Reform. The new year will be a happy one with the strength and mobilization of the people.
National Secretariat of the MST