[8/26/05] MST Update #97 Our Struggle for Land Reform

Dear friends of the MST,

The topic of corruption, which involves the current government and some of the political parties that support it, has seized the headlines. The media does not speak of anything else except “state corruption‿ as if it were an invention of the Workers Party government. This government is guilty precisely of continuing the bourgeois way of playing politics.
There are congressmen who discovered that some Congressional Inquiries give them enough space in the media to massage their personal vanities and launch their own campaigns for the 2006 elections. So we have a congress that instead of legislating is more concerned with investigating. All of them in their mediocrity try to appear to be efficient police investigators. And they still try to pose as paragons of public morality, of ethical transparency, and defenders of the interests of the Brazilian people. Even the nephew of ACM is preoccupied in discovering how corruption can be found in the entrails of government. If this were his real concern, a congressional order would not be necessary, it would be enough to stay home and talk to his grandfather.

We reaffirm the need to punish all those responsible for corruption, those corrupted and those who are corrupt. But we also think that the true fight against corruption goes beyond the creation of political instruments to really give powers to the people to participate in political decisions in the country and in the control of power in the state. Without this, the corrupt people of today and of yesterday would only continue to refine their methods of appropriating from the public patrimony and penalizing the people to benefit a small minority of the population. For this reason, we regret that Deputy Roberto Freire (PPS/PE) has shelved the bill proposed by attorney Fábio Konder Comparato that standardized popular participation, through plebiscites, in the important decisions of the country.

But just fighting corruption is not enough to resolve the problems that affect the Brazilian people. It is necessary to fight, without any truce or concessions, the economic policy of the Lula government that does not allow it to meet the people’s demands (for Land Reform, housing, public education, health, social insurance, job creation, etc.) and puts the highest priority on the enormous profits of national and international finance capital.

The performance of this government is shameful on the issue of Land Reform. During the National March for Land Reform, from the 1st to the `17th of May 2005, when 12 thousand marchers went from Goiânia (GO) to Brasília (DF), we presented a series of demands to speed up the process of Land Reform. Besides demanding that the goals set by the government itself for settling families be met, we asked for the restructuring of INCRA (National Institute for Colonization and Land Reform), technical assistance, financial credits, support for the special education programs, for preservation of the environment and family farming and the immediate revision of the productivity indices. If they remain as they are now, these indices ensure that the huge rural properties will remain unproductive.

All these demands consist of the signed agreement with the government and its ministers. Some, such as the regulation that establishes new productivity indices, depend exclusively on President Lula. It has not yet been signed. Others are jammed up in the intrigues of the administrative bureaucracy or are lost in disputes between ministries, which characterize a government that has no political unity much less a strategic project for the country.

The failure of Land Reform of the Lula government is not because it did not meet the goals that Lula himself established in 2003 of settling 400 thousand families by the end of his term. By continuing the neoliberal policies of the Cardoso government, the Lula government reduced the National Plan for Land Reform to simple goals of settlements to be met by the Ministry of Agrarian Development. The government exempted itself from any responsibility for this historic commitment to the Brazilian people. And thus instead of confronting the latifúndio, the Lula government transferred the clash over Land Reform to within the government itself. So the Ministry of Agrarian Development fights with the Finance Ministry for major financial resources, the administrative bureaucracy is given responsibility for balking at the expropriations, or it’s a fight with the Agriculture Ministry, disputing over crumbs from the lavish funds and privileges destined for agribusiness. Everything except the confrontation with the latifúndio.
While the neoliberal policy continues, agro-exports will be of vital importance to maintaining the balance of trade and thus to drain the national wealth in never-ending interest payments to finance capital. In this model, there is no room for Land Reform.

The defeat of the neoliberal policy passes to the popular mobilizations in defense of Land Reform. In a document handed over to the federal government in September 2003, we defended Land Reform as a high-priority policy to resolve the serious problems of unemployment, hunger, and poverty in the rural area. We emphasized the popular character of Land Reform, demanding the expropriation of all the unproductive latifúndios as the Federal Constitution establishes. We defend the implementation of agribusiness with a program of education and a new technological model with technical assistance that is compatible with family and cooperative farming in the Land Reform areas. With three years of the Lula government having passed, he owes a great debt with these commitments to Land Reform. The debt is larger still when we recall Lula’s long-ago disposition to promote Land Reform as soon as he took office.

Thus we hope to defeat this neoliberal policy and the latifúndio with large popular mobilizations, promoting discussions about the urgency of a development project that meets the needs of the Brazilian people. The Lula government itself has validated once again that a policy that serves the needs of the rich does not serve the poor.

Forward to the struggle!

National Secretariat of the MST

News Briefs

Globalization accentuates the differences in the world

Globalization and the neo-liberal, pro-market reforms of the 1980s and 1990s increased inequality in the world. The topic, fully discussed among the social movements, is present in the report The Ambush of Inequalities, published on August 25 by the UN. Brazil is the country with the most unequal distribution of income on the planet: the per-capita income of the top 10% is 32 times greater than that of 40% of the poorest.

Doctors without Land is formed in Cuba

"Today the weapons are unique. The battle is won with knowledge, talent, and generosity. Freedom is won with solidarity‿, stated Cuban president Fidel Castro, while greeting the first group of graduates from the Medical School of Latin America. The ceremony took place on August 8 in the Karl Marx Theater in Havana. Sixteen hundred and ten doctors from 28 countries graduated, including 11 men and women rural workers from the MST.

Translated by Friends of the MST volunteer Charlotte Casey