[11/5/10] "We Must Face the Large Estate, Agribusiness and Monoculture”

By Vanessa Ramos MST Dilma Rousseff promises not to criminalize social movements, but in fact what should we expect from the president-elect? Will Agrarian Reform be able to move forward during the new government? These and other policy issues have left many people worried. However, asserting the necessity of making a “revolution in the field," Dilma responds to the desires of Brazilian rural workers. In other words, this election was a boost for the social struggles of the country. For Jaime Amorim, a member of the National Coordination of the MST in Pernambuco, Dilma's victory shows that Brazil has, above all, militants willing to fight and defend the conquests [of the social movements]. Therefore, social movements and leftist groups have mobilized and had taken to the streets to ensure the defeat of the PSDB [the Brazilian Social Democratic Party of rightist candidate José Serra] in the second round. "I think we came out of a great period of demobilization of the struggle for agrarian reform and the struggle of the worker in Brazil," said the coordinator. "Now we have to wait for the new government's composition and popularize the struggle for agrarian reform," he added. Initially, many challenges must be faced by the president. Among them, revision of the indices of productivity [used to determine if land is productive and available or not for agrarian reform], restart the expropriation of land and re-evaluate the structure of INCRA [National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform – the government agency responsible for agrarian reform]. The reformulation of the country's agricultural structure, which according to Amorim, has emphasized the agro-export, also is an emergency for the peasants. However, the Dilma government will only have conditions to advance land reform if it understands that "it is important for the development of the country," said Amorim. Assuming that land reform covers a range of measures, the “revolution in the field,” mentioned by the President-elect, is now able to go beyond paper plans and become reality. Nevertheless, if there are only expropriations of land, Brazil cannot resolve the problem of land concentration in the country. According to Amorim, "we must face the large estate, agribusiness and [agricultural] monoculture. Once and for all, we must resolve the barriers that, for long time, hindered the development process within the country." Moreover, he reckons that "it is necessary to remove the remnants of feudalism and at the same time propose a new model of development based on production of food on small farms, and a less perverse technological matrix. This is to make a revolution in the field. If she is willing to do that, we'll be with her." Anyway, the relationship between the MST and the Dilma government should not change much compared to the Lula government. For the coordinator, the movement will continue fighting for agrarian reform, present platforms and hold talks with the new government. He does not believe, however, in large transformations. "For us, the situation remains the same. There is no major change in the correlation of forces. The defeat of Dilma, yes, it would have signified a huge loss," he noted. The delivery of the proposals of the MST must happen, probably after the new President-elect selects the new ministry. According to Amorim, one of the agendas to be discussed is the definition of the maximum size of the property. "The government has to expropriate land for noncompliance with social function, and must have a political determination to do so." For him, the country can no longer survive the agro-export model that is increasingly destroying the natural resources, destroying the soil and degrades all the wealth in Brazil. Slave Labor Slave labor in the country is still a reality in many regions. In order to punish the farmers who are disregarding the rights guaranteed by the state to rural workers, Amorim emphasized the importance of approving the Constitutional Amendment (PEC) 438/2001, which provides for the confiscation of land where slavery exists. "We must ensure that legislation that will give the government the right to expropriate all farms, all plants and all companies that use slave labor is approved. Otherwise, humanity will continue to be disregarded and lead to the situation of slavery. But it is not enough to punish the landowners, we have to change the model of agricultural development," he explained. CONAB For him, the National Supply Company (CONAB) was one of the major organs structured during the Lula government, which provides effective support to small farmers and settlers in Brazil. "When Lula took office, of the 235 warehouses that existed during the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government, only 25 effectively remained and, of these, 18 were still being privatized. CONAB was practically nonexistent and is now an important tool for marketing and for the question of price equilibrium and inventory," he recalled. Amorim also believes that CONAB is a body capable of giving support, guaranty of price and marketing for all farmers and settlers.