[02/06/09] MST Informa #161: A Note of Solidarity and Sorrow

The Landless Workers Movement (MST) announces its sorrow at the death on Thursday February 5 of the Federal Deputy Adão Pretto and extends its solidarity to the family at this time of loss for Brazilian society.

Since the beginning of his social activism in the Ecclesiastical Base Communities and in the rural union movement, Adão Pretto was a non-stop defender of agrarian reform, playing a leading role in the network of landless families and supporters from the first occupations in Rio Grande do Sul, even during the military dictatorship. He was present at the organizing and founding of the MST, of the Workers Party, and of the Rural Department of the Central Workers Union (CUT).

In the National Congress, he denounced and fought against the actions of the rural right-wing block and became one of the pillars of the Agrarian Nucleus of the Workers Party. He presented bills in Congress that tried to speed up the process of agrarian reform, to allow access to education for the small farmers and improve the quality of life in the countryside. In the last year, he was involved in denouncing the change in the border limit which would benefit the transnational cellulose corporations in Rio Grande do Sul.

More than a parliamentarian, Adão was always a farmer, with his simple, honest and forceful manner, but above all he was a fighter. He was always present in the struggles of the social movements, always raising demands and people’s causes in Congress, denouncing the criminalization and repression of the people’s struggle.

In the year in which we complete 25 years, we are losing one of our founders and one of our most courageous colleagues. In his honor, we will continue doing that which Adão Pretto always did in his life: continue to struggle. National Coordination of the MST


I knew our beloved Adão Pretto for more than 30 years. We got to know each other in a pastoral activity in the diocese of Frederico, where he was a leader of his community and a minister of the Eucharist. Brother Sergio Gorgen introduced him and gave him very good references – a small farmer, fighter, honest, a worker, father of nine children. And he had a great future. He raised his family with the work he did on the small farm alongside the Miraguai River.

In those years of the military dictatorship, it was very hard to find courageous people who would defend the interests of the community. From the beginning I admired him for his social sensitivity, for his honesty and frankness. In the meetings, he used to put his ideas and the evaluations of policy into verse.

For his leadership and dedication, he was elected president of the union of rural workers of the municipality of Miraguai, in the end of the 1970s in the wave of union opposition that renewed our union movement.

In the union, he dedicated himself to organizing the small farmers in the struggle for better prices and also with so many landless in his base, he began to organize the Landless Movement. Soon he became a political leader in the whole region. I remember him also on the pilgrimage of the landess that we carried out in 1981 at the Natalino crossroads with our first big encampment. Adão Pretto declaimed, with a small son, a Gaucho verse denouncing the capitalist forms of exploitation of the small farmers and the need to struggle. He made a big impact on more than 25,000 participants.

Time went by and in 1986 we organized the major occupation of lands in Rio Grande do Sul on what was then the Annoni farm. With more than 2.5 thousand families. And there was Adão Pretto. In that same year, he was elected state deputy. He would be the first state deputy who was also a small farmer to hold office in the Legislative Assembly. A great victory of the farmers’ movement in Rio Grande do Sul.

In the beginning many columnists in the bourgeois press laughed at his lack of formal education; he actually only went as far as third grade. The response came in his exemplary performance in defense of small farmers and landless that had an impact throughout the state and they gave him the Springer Prize as best deputy.

After being elected federal deputy, defending the interests of the working class with that same tenacity and harmony in the Chamber of Deputies.

Adão Pretto did not fit the pattern of the parliamentarian that we know. He did not like the tribune. But he was present in all the social struggles that went on in the last 20 years. And he made them to resonate in the parliament in the form of laws or denunciations.

He was always the same. Simple. With an impressive coherence. He never faltered. The basic criteria that he used in his life and in his political participation, was always to ask: what is in the workers’ interest? And independent of everyone, he defended them.

He also made an example of his form of carrying out a political campaign. He never accepted receiving a penny of financial aid from any corporation. The more his colleagues taunted him for losing opportunities to receive lucrative help from the Aracruzes, the Vales, and other corrupters. All his campaigns were carried out by the activists and in the discussion of ideas and projects.

The workers and the people of Rio Grande do Sul have lost one of their great fighters. The MST and La Via Campesina lose one of their most unifying and dedicated leaders. All of us have lost. But his example remains, which will certainly immortalize him.

The Great Adão Pretto leaves all of us with saudades. João Pedro Stedile – member of the National Coordination of the MST

Like soldiers in persecuted lands, we walk over the same mountain ranges and woods without roads. You, as the most experienced, went in the front, opening up the trails and alerting us to problems. We grew, with the same spirit of revolt, seeking all the solutions with the masses. We overcame storms and hurricanes without losing sight of the utopia on the horizon. We drank the clear water of the fountains of our founders who planted optimism in the mountains. We defended socialism with them and all the victories that were truly humanitarian. We mend the seams of agrarian reform in all the hidden corners of the beautiful lands of Brazil. We planted hope in all the trenches without ever rejecting any mission. We sing the revolution in verses, tunes, and poetry without ever stumbling on the metrics of the rhymes. We cultivate values and self-esteem, trying to put in order the behavior and the harmony. And we vow with the strength of conscience to never give in, to sell out or to be co-opted. Now at this hour in the moment of leaving, we don’t want this to be a farewell but rather a continuity. You will continue to be present at all the moments, particularly in our movements that take pride in having known you, as one of its most beloved sons, who to this day has given birth to humanity. Ademar Bogo – member of the National Coordination of the MST