[12-03-09] A Letter from the Land Workers

On November 25th, the National Forum for Agrarian Reform and Land Justice attended a hearing in Brasília with the Federal Government, where it presented an overview of where land reform currently stands, and criticized an offensive by landowners. During the meeting, attending organizations - among them the MST, Contag, CNBB, MPA, and MAB - delivered a letter of demands to the Federal Government, represented by minister Luiz Dulci (Secretary-General of the Presidency), INCRA’s president, Rolf Hachbart, and by the Presidency’s Head of Staff, Gilberto Carvalho. Read the full document below: A Letter from the Land Workers The land issue has returned to the spotlight lately. The violent ways in which workers are treated, and the attempts made by the government to discredit the settlements, show us a reality that needs to be attacked upfront, in a clear and firm manner. Those who have always held political power, rooted to economic power based on land ownership, can’t take that power being tarnished. Even if the Constitution limits property rights to the fulfillment of a larger social function, this has become a mere illustration of what it should be. Nowadays, the most modern and advanced technology applied to the land, which brings significant increase in productivity, coexists with primitive accumulation, which harms the environment, subjects workers to slave-like labor conditions, and lowers costs through violent means. Land reform is an essential tool to increase food production and consolidate a democratic process in Brazil. In order to distribute power, it’s first necessary to distribute property and multiply the access to it. Land reform is a civilizing and social measure. With this in mind, the land workers, here represented by the National Forum for Agrarian Reform and Land Justice, demand from the Government: • Immediate publication of inter-ministerial legislation that updates land productivity indexes. • Settlement of tens of thousands of families currently camped across the country. • Identification and marking of indigenous and quilombola areas, in compliance with the Constitution. • The implementation of a strict control system for pesticides that poison workers through handling and consumers through food consumption. • Outlining of an effective land reform program, which would expropriate all land that doesn’t serve its social and environmental function, and guarantee opportunities for settlement projects to develop. • A comprehensive program to eradicate illiteracy and promote education in the fields, as well as guarantee resources for Pronera to continue and expand its actions. • Extension of Public Health Care programs to the countryside. • A Housing Program that benefits all rural communities. • Outlining of a broad program for agricultural industries financed with resources from BNDES. • Strong action against the dismantling of environmental legislation - such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Forest Code, and the Code of Cultivars - carried out by national and international conservative sectors. • The endorsement of land reform as a social responsibility that should be carried out through the Executive branch of government. Additionally, the following items require action through the National Congress: • Voting of PEC 438, which determines expropriation of land where slave work is found. • Calling of a plebiscite, according to article 14 of the Constitution, where Brazilian citizens can express their views on the establishment of a limit to land ownership. The land workers hope that the Federal Government will give greater attention to its claims, and place land reform once more as one of its government priorities, so as to extend the realms of democracy and citizenship. Brasília, November 25th, 2009 THE NATIONAL FORUM FOR AGRARIAN REFORM AND LAND JUSTICE Social Movements from the Center of Social Movements (CMS) People’s Congress – Union Centers: CUT, CTB, Força Sindical, NCST, CGT, UGT, CONTAG – MST – FETRAF-Brasil - CUT - CPT – CÁRITAS BRASILEIRA – MMC – MPA – MAB - CMP - CONIC – CONDSEF – Social Pastoral CNBB - MNDH – MTL – ABRA – ABONG - APR – ASPTA – ANDES – Global Justice Center - CESE – CIMI – CNASI – DESER – ESPLAR – FASE – FASER – FEAB – FIAN-Brasil – FISENGE - IBASE – IBRADES – IDACO – IECLB - IFAS – INESC – MLST – PJR – REDE BRASIL for Multilateral Financial Institutions – Social Network for Justice and Human Rights - RENAP – SINPAF – TERRA DE DIREITOS – EMPÓRIO DO CERRADO – COIABE – ABRANDH – ABEEF – Commission for Justice and Peace – Cry of the Excluded – South/Brazil Jubilee – National Front for Overcoming Extreme Poverty and Hunger.