[04/16/08] MST Informa #150: Why we are struggling

Dear Friends of the MST,

Agrarian Reform is blocked in our country. The concentration of land is growing, the settlements are not receiving effective support, violence against the landless is on the rise and the estate owners and agribusinesses are operating with impunity. The massacre of Eldorado dos Carajas is the main symbol of the State’s indifference to rural workers and the Brazilian people. After 12 years since the massacre that killed 19 rural workers in the municipality of Eldorado dos Carajas in Pará on April 17, 1996, little has changed for the landless.

One hundred fifty thousand families remain in encampments as agribusiness companies continue to take control of greater swaths of Brazilian territory, lands that should be targeted for distribution to rural workers. The government has given priority and preference to agribusiness. This disparity is illustrated by the actions of the Bank of Brazil, which loaned $7 billion US dollars to 13 economic groups at the same time that our settlements do not receive sufficient investments.

This week. in every region of the country, were are occupying lands, marching, setting up encampments as well as carrying out demonstrations and protests in headquarters of public banks, secretariats of federal and state governments to demand investment in settlement areas to increase production and the building of rural housing.

The National Campaign of Struggles for Agrarian Reform of the MST, in this month of April, denounces the delays in Agrarian Reform and the negative impacts of agribusiness. The MST presents proposals to reverse the situation. We must change the existing economic policies that benefit big business and finance capital. As these business interests benefit from government policies, the Brazilian people suffer because of the disrespect for their social rights, granted to them in the Constitution, andthe lack of effective public policies to confront inequality and poverty.

Brazil is behind in the process of democratizing land and in the organization of production to guarantee the sustainability of small and medium farmers. We cannot permit the perpetuation of the unproductive latifundio, symbol of the injustice in the countryside.

Our campaign of struggles presents proposals for the development of the Brazilian countryside. We demand a project to create jobs as well as promote education and health. For this, our campaign demands the following from the federal government:

1. Again take up land expropriations and settle those families in encampments throughout the country. To help the families of rural workers who have for years remained under the black plastic tarps in the struggle for Agrarian Reform, we propose:

– An emergency plan for settling all 150,000 families in encampments;

– A change in the productivity indexes;

– Creation of a mechanism that hastens the internal proceedings for the process of expropriation;

– Approval of a law that requires farms which exploit slave work to be set aside for Agrarian Reform;

– Target mortgaged areas in the Bank of Brazil and the Federal government saving bank for Agrarian Reform


2. Create a line of credit, specifically for settlements, that makes possible the production of food for the population in the cities. The National Program to Strengthen Family Farming does not take into account the specifics of the Agrarian Reform areas. The bureaucracy makes it hard for settlement families to get access to the program.

INCRA, as a government entity, should create a new line of credit with the objective of creating structural conditions for production and social infrastructure as an incentive for settlements to form community associations within the first years of their existence. We also demand the creation of a new bank credit for the structure of the productive base in the settlements. The government should ensure the acquisition of all production by means of CONAB (the National Supply Company) with fair prices and agricultural insurance.

3. With INCRA and in partnership with the Federal Economic Savings Bank, the MST has been developing a program of repare and construction of houses in the countryside, particularly in the Agrarian Reform settlements. The demand for housing in the countryside in 2007 was 100,000 units, in agreement with the work group composed of the social movements. The government promised to grant credit to build 31,000 units to the end of last year. Until now only eight thousand were contracted, of which only two thousand were destined for settlements.

Thus, we demand that the government contract all projects that are in the Federal Economic Savings Bank until July 2008 and meet the demand of 100,000 rural dwellings for 2008. We also ask for the creation of a specific program of rural housing, without bureaucracy and which serves the specific needs of the rural area, coordinated by INCRA in partnership with the social movements who are active in the countryside to serve the families in settlements.

Brazil needs a new agricultural model that gives priority to family farming focused on the internal market and the poor people in the country. In this way we are going to ensure food sovereignty and produce food for the 80 million Brazilians who do not have sufficient access to food. Agrarian Reform and the strengthening of family farming are the fundamental premises for the construction of a country with social justice and peoples' sovereignty.

National Leadership of the MST