[10/26/05] Social Movements Organized in ‘Popular Assembly’ send Letter to President Lula

In a letter sent to President Lula, the 8 thousand plus social and land reform activists participating in Brazil’s “Popular Assembly", held in Brasília, criticized the lack of action on the part of the government.

See Below for the Full Text:

Your Excellency
Luis Inácio Lula Da Silva

Esteemed President,

We find ourselves in Brasília, thousands of activists from different social movements, including many land reform activists. Considering the needs of the encamped and settled families, and the dissatisfaction with your policies around Agrarian Reform, we felt the need to write you this letter.

We want you to remember the agreements you made, beginning in 2003. In November of that year, when the government announced the 2nd National Plan for Agrarian Reform, promising to settle 400,000 families and prioritizing those families living in encampments, along with promises for a new Agrarian Reform policy, we were left both happy and hopeful.

Time went on and nothing came of the government’s promise to speed up Agrarian Reform. We are now arriving at the government’s last year in office, and only with great difficulty will the goals of the 2nd National Plan for Agrarian Reform be met. Minister Miguel Rosseto admitted publicly that the government has only settled 117,000 families. There’s an important point to be made: 65% of these settled families have been settled in what is called the “Legal Amazon‿, which as we all know, represents the legalization of public lands already occupied by landless workers, not the appropriate solution (expropriations) that would serve to modify Brazil’s concentration of land.

To exemplify the grave situation around the government’s Agrarian Reform policies, we’d like to give just two examples. In Rio Grande do Sul less than 500 families have been settled over the past three years. The government of Olívio Dutra, with all the legislative restrictions of that period, settled more than 4,000 families in four years.

In the state of Maranhão, with the greatest number of landless families and the largest concentration of latifúndios (large estates), INCRA (the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform) did not settle a single MST family during the past three years. This is disgraceful!

In May of this year we organized the National March for Agrarian Reform from Goiânia to Brasília, thanks in part to the support and solidarity we received from the Brazilian people. We mobilized more than 12,000 activists and marched for 17 days.

When we arrived, the Government Ministries could not provide concrete responses to the demands we have maintained since the beginning of your government. Thanks to your intervention, we were able to construct an agenda of compromises, based on seven points:

1) Secure the settlement of landless families, in accordance with the National Plan for Agrarian Reform

2) Prioritize those families living in encampments

3) Recover the use of special Credit for settled families (Only 15% of the 580,000 settled families receive this Credit)

4) Restructure INCRA (National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform)

5) Accelerate the liberation of all resources for Agrarian Reform

6) Provide basic food baskets to all encamped families

7) Publish, in the following weeks, the new productivity indices for land, allowing for the expropriation of unproductive lands (according to the Minister of Agrarian Reform, this was done on April 6th of this year).

Almost none of these points have seen their fulfillment. Some were partially implemented, such as the question of Credit. Just this week, the process of restructuring INCRA by staffing it with a greater number of people, began, which should have been done in 2003.

In the last week of September of this year, we mobilized once again at INCRA offices around the country, calling the attention of society and government, that promises were still not being met.

You can see that today there are 140,000 families encamped throughout the countryside, facing all types of grave difficulties, who will face another year of basic agricultural production in their camps, without land of their own on which to produce. To attend to these 140,000 families INCRA presented us with the goal of settling just 15,000 families MST families.

To us, this is just one more act of disrespect towards the goals of the 2nd National Plan for Agrarian Reform. This is also a disregard to the compromises we made with you after the National March. These unfulfilled promises are an affront to the suffering of those encamped families and they bring shame to your government.

Again, we were promised that by the end of October the new productivity indices would be published, allowing for expropriations of unproductive lands. We can only imagine what would happen if your government were this slow to attend to the interests of agribusiness and the banks?

These policies represent a disregard for the historical character of your Party and your campaign promises. They also represent a form of punishment for those workers that decide to organize and participate in struggle.

With all this in mind, Mr. President, we present this letter to you directly, as we do not know to whom else we can appeal.

Sure of your understanding and ability to fulfill these goals, from afar we thank you attentively, on behalf of MST activists, of Via Campesina and all those who struggle for Agrarian Reform.

Brasília, DF. 26th of October, 2005.

The original text can be found in its Portuguese form by visiting: