[2/25/05] MST Update #84: Lack of Land Reform Fuels Violence in the Countryside

*The MST distributes biweekly updates that FMST-US volunteers translate and make available. Please read the latest below.*

MST Update #84: Friday, February 25, 2005

1. FEATURE ARTICLE: The lack of land reform fuels violence in the countryside


2. Ceremonies throughout the country mourn the death of Sister Dorothy and the violence in the countryside

3. Person accused of killing Landless Worker is condemned to 30 years in Mato Grosso do Sul


1. FEATURE ARTICLE: The lack of land reform fuels violence in the countryside

"We are today landless in our own land."
Sérgio Buarque de Hollanda

Dear friends of the MST,

What has occurred since the beginning of the year related to land reform shows that we will have some big campaigns ahead.

First the good news. In January we had the visit of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez during the Fifth World Social Forum. He made us proud by visiting our settlement in the city of Tapes (RS). We put on a beautiful ceremony there in defense of land reform and seeds and for food sovereignty.

We inaugurated the Florestan Fernandes National Training School in Guararema (SP), the watermelon festival in Santa Catarina, celebrating the harvest, and countless other initiatives that happened during the first days of this year.

Following the World Social Forum, we had a real nightmare. Faced with the government’s slowness, the lack of initiative on the part of the State, the latifúndio and its allies in agribusiness resolved to show their true face. A climate of heightened violence was installed in the rural areas in various parts of the country.

They stupidly killed Sister Dorothy in Pará. In the same state, in Parauapebas, the president of the syndicate of rural workers and other rural workers were killed in the following days. In Alagoas, two settlers were killed, there were people thrown in prison in Santa Catarina and in Pontal do Paranapanema, violent evictions in Batatais (SP) and Goiânia, and the conflicts in Pernambuco.

The MST on its part, in these 21 years has never resorted to violence to resolve the problem of land reform in Brazil. We are against the user of weapons to resolve social problems. We want a fair distribution of land, where all the families can live and work with dignity.

Regarding the impact of violence, we are sharing in this edition a letter from Bishop Tomás Balduíno, President of the Pastoral Commission on Land (CPT):

"We are living through days marked by violence. The violence of private power is striking down lives on a daily basis in the countryside, including the one that has had the most repercussions, Sister Dorothy Stang in Pará . The violence of private power has its greatest expression in the state of Goiás with the eviction of four thousand families from an urban occupation in Goiânia, with at least two deaths, hundreds of wounded, and more than a thousand jailed.

Most striking is the nimbleness of those who practice violence. When the death of Sister Dorothy was making news throughout the world and the federal authorities, including Ministers, headed for Anapu, PA, gunmen invaded a home and made the niece of a union leader write a note to him telling him that he would be next. More than ten days later when the army troops were in the city, another note was left under the door of another leader with new threats.

Why do the criminals feel so secure? The source of this security is impunity. The CPT has been systematically publishing the report of “Conflicts in the Rural Areas of Brazil