[04/16/09] MST Informa #165: To combat the economic crisis, it’s time for Agrarian Reform!

The concentration of land in Brazil continues to be among the highest in the world. In the past few years, the agro-exporter model, based in agribusiness, not only compounded this concentration, but also aggravated the economic and social problems generated by it. For the sake of the monocultural farming of sugar cane for combustion, eucalyptus for paper, and soy for animal feed in Europe, agribusinesses reduces space for planting food, deforests the Amazon and pushes people into degrading work. At this time of international economic crisis, far from providing any kind of development or social stability, agribusiness reveals its shortcomings. In Brazil, it was the sector with the most layoffs since November, leaving 270,000 people without work. At the same time, it continues to request and receive huge investments and resources from the federal government. These loans run into the billions, dwarfing the small amount of credit conceded to family farms. Meanwhile, thousands of landless families struggle for dignified conditions to live, work, and produce. The realization of a true and effective Agrarian Reform would resolve both the economic crisis — generating thousands of permanent jobs at a lower cost than the industrial sector — and the food crisis, by producing nutritious foods for the internal market. However, agribusiness is also blocking Agrarian Reform, by holding natural resources in reserve to fuel its own expansion. The government gives priority to monocultures destined for export, under the control of transnational companies and foreign financial capital, to sustain the neoliberal economic policies inherited from President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The result is the lowest levels of expropriation and settlement in Brazil’s history. In 2008, of the 18,630 families officially settled by the federal government, only 2,366 are new families, while the rest are still remaining on the waiting list from settlement projects of years past. It’s a shame for these people who have had an historic commitment to Agrarian Reform. For the families of rural workers, occupation is the only way to push for the expropriation of latifúndios and to distribute property. We occupy farms to protest the nonfulfillment of their social function, neither producing food, generating jobs, nor spreading wealth. Not a single settlement in the history of Brazil was achieved without struggle and organization. Our Day of Struggles for Agrarian Reform this month takes place in this context. At the same time, it also commemorates the unpunished crimes of the latifundiários. 13 years ago, 19 workers were assassinated by the Military Police in Pará, in Eldorado dos Carajás. To this day, no one has been charged. We remain committed to fighting, through land occupation, marches and protests, for the implementation of a new kind of Agrarian Reform, a popular movement both in its character and its concerns. We must put in practice a new agricultural model, based on an agro-ecological production network and aimed at promoting food sovereignty, with the agro-industrial priority of cooperative farming and of guaranteed education for settlers at all levels. We want an Agrarian Reform that is able not only to democratize access to land and production, but also to subvert the present agricultural model, which is bringing the nation towards environmental and productive collapse. While agribusiness lays off workers, family farms generate jobs and produce food. Toward this goal, we stand on the side of all workers; for it is not only agribusiness, but the current economic model as a whole which has demonstrated its inability to remedy the greatest problems that affect the Brazilian people. The workers cannot foot the bill for the economic crisis. On the contrary, the solution lies in passing major social reforms, such as a reduction in working hours without reducing salary, punishing corporations that receive public funds and then lay off workers, including expropriating land from agribusinesses that lay off workers after sucking up public money. We will continue to fight, together with every sector of the working class, for the construction of another project for Brazil, which guarantees social justice, income, housing, health, culture, work, land, education and popular sovereignty. MST National Coordinators