European Friends of the MST Meet in Galicia
European Committees of Friends of the MST met from October 24 to 26, 2014 in Mondoñedo, Galicia, Spain. Representatives from FMST Committees of Germany, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Belgium and Galicia, Basque Country and Catalonia in Spain met for their bi-annual meeting. Sending their regards, but unable to attend, were the committees from Italy and Finland. Also present were representatives from the Friends of the MST-USA, Friends of the MST-Canada and from Argentina. The MST sent two representatives from Brazil.
The MST representatives discussed the situation in Brazil on the eve of the second round of voting in the presidential and congressional races (which was won on October 26 by Dilma Rousseff, from the Workers’ Party). In general, the invasion of finance capital in Brazilian agriculture continues unabated. The model supported by finance capital in conjunction with the large landowners excludes small farmers. Only 5% of Brazil’s food comes from small farmers while agriculture represents 26% of the Brazilian economy. Since the 1990’s, this combination of finance capital and latifundios (large landed estates) has taken control of the agricultural sector. Eighty-six percent (86%) of all agricultural credits go to latifundios and the rural banc (the group of legislators representing large landowners) controls the Congress, disproportionate to their numbers in the rural population.
While the Lula and Dilma governments introduced many programs to aid the poor and working class through minimum wage increases, public aid (“bolsa familia”) and education programs, the neo-liberal model of agri-business promotes production for export. This agri-business model depends on (1) the use of huge quantities of agro-toxins (it is estimated that 400,000 Brazilian have health problems from these poisons); (2) the destruction of nature; and (3) unemployment in countryside. Therefore, the MST representatives said, that this period represents a deepening of the struggle for land in Brazil wherein the MST is seeking new allies including the rural and urban workers unions and the deepening of ties through international solidarity.
The European FMST Committees discussed programs in common that corresponded with the MST’s analysis of the Brazilian and world situation. Discussed were programs on opposing destruction of Brazilian nature by European corporations such as the planting of eucalyptus for paper products while ruining the soil; to increase trade with the MST settlements; to promote the role of rural women; to oppose the use of agro-toxins and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and to increase ties with La Via Campesina. In order to implement these and other programs, the committees worked on structures to increase communication and coordination of efforts via the internet, Skype calls etc. and to increase outreach and education through Facebook and web pages.
The meeting also signified the launch in Europe of the Association of the Friends of Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes (ENFF), the MST’s school for training (agricultural and political) located near São Paulo. This organization seeks monthly sustainers to help maintain infrastructure and pay operating expenses. Attached is a brochure which details ENFF’s development and current financial needs.
The meeting was spirited and all left with a sense of renewal and purpose for the tasks ahead.