2019 will be synonymous with struggle and resistance
In an interview, Kelli Mafort from the MST national leadership, speaks about the year that ended and analyzes what the next period will bring.
By Maura Siva
The year ends with the advance of the extreme right, symbolized among other things by the victory of Jair Bolsonaro in the polls, but 2018 was also marked by resistance and struggle of the popular movements, especially the MST. To talk about this scenario and analyze the projections for the next period, we spoke with Kelli Mafort, of the national leadership of the MST.
She says: "in 2018 the consequences of the coup were evident. This could be seen in the scrapping of Incra (National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform), in important public budget cuts such as the PAA (Food Acquisition Program) and in the retreat of some counties regarding legislation for the National School Nutrition Program, which ensures that 30% of school meals are from family farming. In our encampments, the cut was even more violent, not only from the point of view of obtaining lands, but also from the whole process of expropriation, which involves, for example, land surveys, registration of families and mapping of areas. Despite these adverse conditions, we resist. "
Check out the whole interview:
2018 ends as one of the most violent years in the countryside. The criminalization of the struggle, the number of arrests, threats and murders has increased considerably, given this, what we have to expect in 2019 and how to prepare for this resurgence?
Yes, it was a very violent year in the struggle for land and agrarian reform. In addition to the murders - 10 counted in this period alone - we face evictions, repossessions, at least 15 political prisoners and many attempts to criminalize us. This scenario reveals a resurgence of the conservative forces, of this new neo-fascist right, which advances against the working class. Moreover, in the face of Jair Bolsonaro's presidential victory we fear a process of increasing criminalization that can be operated both by the state and classifying popular movements as terrorist groups and by the legal apparatus that has historically been used against the Landless Movement. Therefore, we can affirm that by inciting violence against the MST, Bolsonaro not only squeezes the trigger but also can be considered the source of any action of violence against the Landless workers.
The budget cut in 2018 was huge, we saw the waning of programs and even the end of many projects. It seems that next year will not be different, how to reinvent yourselves in the absence of investments in the countryside?
In 2018 the consequences of the coup were evident. This could be seen in the scrapping of Incra (National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform), in important public budget cuts such as the PAA (Food Acquisition Program) and in the retreat of some counties regarding legislation for the National School Nutrition Program, which ensures that 30% of school meals are from family farming. In our encampments, the cut was even more violent, not only from the point of view of obtaining lands, but also from the whole process of expropriation, which involves, for example, land surveys, registration of families and mapping of areas. Despite these adverse conditions, we resist. "
And this resistance can be translated into some numbers. In 2018 alone in Agrarian Reform settlements we produce three million liters of milk per day, we are the largest producer of organic rice in Latin America, we also produce 63 tons of beans, 43 of coffee, we held more than 10 state fairs, in addition to the national fair that is already going into the fourth year. We must also mention the stores of Groceries in the Countryside which is an important space for sales and dialogue with society. This shows the resistance of Landless production; even with all cuts, this remains a fundamental policy of income generation and food.
Although it was a difficult year, it was also a year of many achievements for the MST. In your opinion, which is the most outstanding?
This was also a year in which the MST participated actively in all the social struggles undertaken in the country, through mobilizations for Lula Livre - since April 7 we have kept about 200 people connected to the MST at the Lula Livre Vigil in Curitiba and we will stay there until he is released.
We also carried out a great march with 50 thousand people. At the end of five days of walking, we participated in a hunger strike, in which seven comrades from various social movements fasted to pressure the STF (Federal Superior Court). In the field of communication we continue with the printed editions of the newspaper Brasil de Fato, which is an important tool for dialogue with society. This year alone 12 million copies were distributed throughout the country. So, despite adversity, we have made great progress in the organizational and formative process. So 2019 will be synonymous with struggle and resistance.
For women, in particular, this was also a year of reaffirmation; what can we expect from MST women in the next period?
In 2018 the women demonstrated strength, endurance and daring. From the point of view of the organizations in the countryside, we focus on the theme of transnational corporations. We also focus on the issue of water ownership, denouncing companies such as Coca Cola and Nestlé. The 'No’ (to Bolsonaro) campaign carried out one of the biggest mobilizations of the last decade. In this context, it is important to emphasize that the struggle of women is a struggle for life itself. There is a widespread increase in rates of violence across the country, affecting mainly women and LGBT people. It’s no coincidence that we are the country with the highest rate of killings of transgender people. That is why women are going to show up in force in 2019. We are witnessing a macho, racist, misogynist and homophobic campaign so now is the time for these forces to unite against everything that threatens us.
Do you have a message for the people in encampments and settlements?
The message I have is the focus on active resistance. This formulation made in the last period must be incorporated by our entire social base. This means that we will continue to do what we have learned, which is to resist even in adverse conditions. It is important to look at our trajectory and see that we have already gone through difficult periods in which we resist and grow. The MST is one of the largest popular movements in Latin America, we are organized nationally and internationally. We are organized and together we are going to overcome adversity. To do this, it is important to look at three basic tasks: grassroots work, political formation, and the strengthening of struggles in the countryside and in the city. The struggle, whatever it is, is part of our existence and resistance, and the MST will be present in all of them.