[09/04/07] MST Informa #141: The Popular Plebiscite

Dear Friends of the MST,

In early Spetember, several social movements issued a statement to question the auction of the Companhia Vale do Rio Doce in 1997. The sale took place while President Fernando Henrique Cardoso was in office and was marked by peculiarities that have been going on since the transfer of the Companhia, sold for 3.3 billion reais (approximately 1.7 billion dollars) when its estimated value was 40 billion dollars, through illicit favoritism of groups. Today the Vale is valued at approximately 100 billion dollars.

The privatization of the Vale meant the privatization of Brazil's historic heritage. Some of Brazil’s natural resources, such as mineral reserves and large portions of our land, were sold along with the Companhia. The mineral reserve of Carajás alone had rights to 700 thousand hectares in the Amazon Rainforest. The Companhia also had rights to the three largest railroads in the country: one that connects Carajás to São Luiz; another from Belo Horizonte to Vitória; and one more from inland Sergipe to the coast. Further, the Companhia had rights to three large ports.

None of these were the property of the Companhia. They were constructed with public money from the government’s budget, and for this reason should not have been privatized. The Vale was not a commercial enterprise owned by the State, but instead was a public company belonging to all Brazilians. Because it belonged to the people, Fernando Henrique Cardoso's government did not have the right to sell it.

During the last 10 years, there has been an intense struggle in the courts to annul the sale of the Vale do Rio Doce. The questions surrounding the sale of the Companhia led to more than one hundred class action lawsuits, 69 of which are still unresolved. Even before the auction, many lawyers tried to prevent the sale. However, at the time the Superior Tribunal of Justice (STJ), as well as the Supreme Federal Tribunal(STF), were promoting the interests of FHC’s government, and the auction could only take place covertly.

In a meeting at the end of 2006, it became clear to the social movements that, in addition to the objecting the sale in the courts, it is necessary for the people to protest publicly. The people were not consulted about the sale of their own national property, and even Congress did not approve the sale of the Companhia. Thus, a basic principle of our Constitution, which guarantees the Brazilian people the power to make the decisions which will affect the future of the country, was not respected.

Besides the question on the Vale, the plebiscite also involves another three subjects: whether the government should continue to make payment on the interest of foreign and internal debt a priority; whether electric energy should continue to be exploited by private capital; and whether voters agree with a reform of the provision that withdraws rights of the workers. The idea is to make the Popular Plebiscite a civic action for the exercise of citizenship of the Brazilian people.

The Plebiscite is part of the National Campaign for Negating the Auction of Vale do Rio Doce, a campaign that is being organized by more than 60 entities and social movements. The vote has already begun. Across the country, ballot boxes are being distributed, in order to collect the votes from September 1st to the 7th, the “Semana da Pátria” or Week of the Homeland. The dates were chosen because of the “Grito dos Excluídos” (the Shout of Those Who’ve Been Excluded) which this year takes as a theme, "The Valley Is Ours – We Want Participation in the Destiny of the Nation.”

Our objective is to press for the nullification of the auction that privatized the Vale. We cannot permit the privatization of our resources such the soil, minerals, water and air. We cannot permit handing over our material inheritance. We cannot agree with neo-liberal premise that the high value attributed to the Company today, is a result of its privatization. To the contrary, we have concrete proof that it is possible for a public corporation to succeed, as in the case of Petrobras. Further, we are certain that profit is not the foremost objective of a state company. Its objective is the well-being of the population.

For all these reasons, we want to consult the people and gather every friend of the MST to also take on this fight. Vote on behalf of Brazil. The Vale is
ours, it is of the PEOPLE!

Good fight, one and all!

We salute you!

National Leadership of the MST

To learn how to participate and to see voting locations, access the page:

>> Below, hear audio from the campaign:

>> Here, see how to organize the Plebescite: http://www.mst.org.br/mst/pagina.php?cd=4054

>> Watch the videos of the campaign: Video Part 01:

- Video Part 02: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBEK1Wup0dw

- Video Part 03:
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfwlYZeVjF4