[4/23/10] MST Informa #182: Review of the Progress of our Struggles

1. The History

The month of April has become a symbol of the fight for democratization of land in Brazil, and the world. On the 17th of April of 1996, 19 rural workers who participated in a protest march, were brutally murdered by the Military Police of the Brazilian state of Pará, in the municipality of Eldorado do Carajás.

The governor of Pará was Almir Garbiel (PSDB). The President of Brazil was Fernando Henrique Cardoso. According to the defense attorneys of the Police officers, the company Vale do Rio Doce financed the mobilization of the Police troop. The Massacre of Carajás was one of the most cowardly and stupid in the history of our country.

Several years have passed and there is yet to be anybody punished or convicted.

In 2002, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso signed into law a bill initiated by Senator Marina Silva that established the 17th of April as the National Day of Struggle for Agrarian Reform. For this reason, during the month of April, here in Brazil and in the whole world, peasants mobilize in the struggle for better living conditions and to advance the cause of Agrarian Reform. This year we embarked on one more journey of struggle, with mobilizations throughout the country, land occupations, protests and marches, to continue to advocate for the historical needs of peasants.

We have two complementary themes on the agenda. The first is the need to resume the debate about the necessity for structural changes of land ownership in the agricultural model imposed by international capital in our country, so-called Agribusiness. The second are the various concrete demands, commitments assumed by the government, to improve the living conditions of workers immediately.

The election of President Lula opened new perspectives for rural workers and for Agrarian Reform. After he assumed the presidency, we accompanied the formulation of the National Plan of Agrarian Reform, which was diminished by pressure from the large landowner’s interest group and by the lack of priority within the economic sector.

In 2005, we had a large march from Goiânia to Brasilia, with 12 thousand urban and rural workers, who walked 124 miles, over 17 days. At the end of the march we were received by President Lula to whom we gave a list of demands, with suggestions on how to improve agrarian policy. On that occasion the government committed, in writing to the following points:

1. Prioritize the settlement of all families in camps.
2. Update the measures of productivity (i.e. fulfill the Agrarian Law)
3. Guarantee resources for land expropriation.
4. Create a line of credit specifically for settlers.
5. Create a special line of credit in the National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES) for agro-industry and cooperatives in the settlements.
6. Increase the educational resources of rural areas.

2. The Current Situation

As time went by very little was accomplished to this end. The result was that, in these years, land ownership became even more concentrated. The choice of agribusiness on the part of certain ministries became obvious.

Each journey, every year, we present practically the same list of demands to the government. For this reason we say that our list of demands has become yellow with age. No structural measures have been implemented and the few settlements that were created were more of a measure of conflict resolution than an alternative production project. Thousands of families remain in camps. Of the total number of families settled by the government, 65% were projects of land regularization and colonization in the Amazon.

On the other hand however, with the coming election, the right has articulated in their hegemonic spaces, such as the Judiciary Branch, the large landowner’s interest group and the bourgeois media, to attack Agrarian Reform, the social struggle and the MST. In the last few months there has been a clear campaign promoted by the bourgeois media. The attacks in Congress, with the formation of a public inquiry (CPMI) of Agrarian Reform, the attempts to impose legislative changes for the worse, as in the case of the Forest Code and other initiatives.

In the Judicial Branch, Minister Gilmar Mendes has become the spokesperson of the large landholding, always and solely defending absolute property rights, ignoring the Constitution, and abandoning the post of magistrate in order to become a lawyer of the interests of farm owners. He has never bothered to receive the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (CNBB) nor the Pastoral Commission on Land (CPT) to explain why, of the 1,600 murdered agrarian workers and leaders since 1985 until now, only 80 were tried, 16 were condemned and only eight are in prison. Nor did he explain what measures the Judicial Branch is taking in relation to the heinous crimes against the environment and slave labor on large landholdings.

Senator Katia Abreu (DEM-TO), who illegally sold 2,500 hectares of public land in the state of Tocantins, and in the process expelled the impoverished peasants, is the epitome of tradition, of the family and property, dreaming of becoming the vice presidential candidate on Jose Serra’s (PSDB) presidential ticket. From the role she has played as leader of CAN (Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock in Brazil), we know that she will represent the most reactionary interests of the Brazilian bourgeoisie if she takes part in the elections. The attacks against workers have already begun. We know that they can get worse.

3. Our Action

We mobilize, first, to tell Brazilian society that we need structural changes in land ownership that guarantees the democratization of this gift of nature that the Constitution guarantees for all Brazilians. We say that the model of agribusiness is prejudicial to our society, as it produces only commodities for export, produces them in large scale solely with poisons, transforming Brazil into the largest consumer of Agro-toxins in the world. We denounce that the form of production of agribusiness, in addition to exploiting workers, degrades the environment, contributing to climate change that affects all.

Our mobilization this April was victorious. Thousands of workers protested in almost the entire country. Everywhere society supported us in different forms. Without the solidarity of so many entities, unions, churches and people with good will, it would be impossible to advance the struggle in such adverse conditions. We mobilize to insist that the government honor its commitments: that it revitalize the budget of the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), make available resources for the expropriation of large land holdings that are being charged with fitting the criteria for expropriation, that they publish the decree that updates the measures of productivity, that they seriously discuss concrete forms of organizing the production of settlements, that they fulfill the commitments to settle families in encampments for so many years.

We have had meetings with several ministers: of Planning, Secretary of the Presidency, of MDA. We hope that the commitments be assumed in earnest and realized.

On our part, as a social movement, we have the obligation and the right to continue organizing rural workers, so that we can fight for our rights.

We will be attentive.

We call on all sectors of popular organization to prepare and join forces on the 18th of May, for a national mobilization in support of the reduction of the work week from 44 to 40 hours a week, without reductions in salaries.

Fighting for Social Justice is our right.
Follow the progress of our fight for Agrarian Reform on the web at: www.mst.org.br.

We also recommend the blog of the Network of Communicators for Agrarian Reform: http://www.reformaagraria.blog.br/

National Secretary of the MST