[04/17/2007] MST Asks for Your Support, "Send Letters, MST Agrarian Reform Proposals, to President Lula TODAY!"

Dear Friends of the MST,

As you know, our movement is mobilizing throughout Brazil for another campaign demanding Agrarian Reform in our country.

As you also know, April 17th is the International Day of Peasant Struggle as called for by La Via Campesina International and for that reason in many countries of the world, similar campaigns and protests are being organized by peasant organizations.

Here in Brazil in June of 2002, then-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso signed Bill 10.469, proposed by then-senator Marina Silva and approved by the Brazilian Congress, designating April 17th as the National Day of Struggle for Agrarian Reform.

So this year on April 17th, besides mobilizations, we are asking our Friends abroad, our friends in Congress and in each state capital to send a letter to President Lula with the proposals of the MST for agrarian reform.

If you can, no matter where you live outside of Brazil, sign the sample letter to the President [SEE BELOW], or write your own, and send it to the local Brazilian consulate or embassy and/or send emails directly to the Palacio do Planalto in Brasilia.

Email your letter to:
(1) Your local Brazilian consulate or embassy:
[ SEE: http://www.brazilsf.org/other_consulates_eng.htm ]
(2) President Lula:
[ pr@planalto.gov.br ]
(3) Marizete, the presidential secretary:
[ marizete@planalto.gov.br ]
(4) Please also send us a copy of your emails, using our office in Brasilia: [ secgeralbsb@terra.com.br ]

Thank you very much. Abraços,
General Secretariat of the MST


Luis Inácio Lula da Silva
M.D. Presidente da República
Palácio do Planalto.

Dear Mr. President,

It is with great pleasure that we present you personally with several suggestions of concrete measures your government should take in order to implement true agrarian reform in our country.

Agrarian reform, as understood by our movement and by the Brazilian society as a whole, is a governmental policy that seeks to make land ownership more democratic, ending the exploitation of the millions of peasants historically excluded from the process of social development, and permitting them to build a future for their families while working for themselves. It is also understood as a means of wealth redistribution that allows millions of marginalized people to be included in the consumer market. It therefore also stimulates employment in the urban and rural areas, as well as the development of the national market. Agrarian reform is also the state’s guarantee of access to education at all levels, as well as the promotion of sustainable agro-ecological techniques that respect the environment and result in healthy produce.

For this, we present the following proposals for implementation by your administration:

I - Access to Land

That the national agrarian reform plan be updated and realistic mechanisms developed to implement a massive agrarian reform program to benefit one million families of landless workers.

That there be a true coalition of governmental forces to accumulate and expropriate all the land necessary to immediately settle all the families that are camped, the majority of which have lived in sub-human conditions for several years.

That regional programs of expropriation be prioritized, concentrating on obtaining the areas in regions determined by the state, near the consumer centers, creating regional reformed areas of peasant agriculture.

That all farms of foreign companies situated along the borders be expropriated, in conformance with the law.

That the government mobilize its parliamentary base to immediately approve the law of expropriation of farms that use slave labor.

That the indices of productivity be updated and the internal norms changed to accelerate the expropriation process, and that summary judgment be applied, as constantly recommended in the II PNRA and consultations with specialists.

That all the farms mortgaged in public banks or involved in tax debt or workers’ rights issues be immediately subject to agrarian reform

That the red tape of authoritarian and bureaucratic legislation that create judicial quarrels impeding agrarian reform be removed.

That an emergency plan is made, drafted with the Secretariat of Human Rights and the National Agrarian Ombudsman, so that the federal government may act together with the judiciary branch and the state police with the objective of punishing every case of violence in the rural areas: hundreds of rural workers have been assassinated, and the majority of the cases continue unpunished and the law suits blocked.

II - Proposals for Settlements

We need a new model for settlements that increases the number of families who are settled in the same area, independent of the size of the individual area, so that the settlements can be big, organized near cities, on fertile soil, together with agro-vilas, agro-industries, guaranteeing other types of work and income for women and youth.
We need a permanent program with concrete measures to encourage agricultural cooperation on the part of governmental organs.

There needs to be a program for the installation of agro-industries on the settlements with public investment, coordinated through CONAB , and ceded to settlement cooperatives for its administration. By doing so, we would have more value-added products, thus bettering the income of producers.

We need a new mode of special rural credit for agrarian reform. PRONAF, using its current methods, has not succeeded in reaching out to most settlers. Only a minority had access to credit. (See the attached detailed proposed.)
We need CONAB to be built up like a public company that will guarantee the sale of all foodstuffs produced on settlements and on family farms.

An ample program needs to be developed for the living situation on settlements, establishing a partnership between the Caixa Economico Federal (a national Brazilian Bank), and INCRA (National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform). This is to guarantee the construction of all of the houses still pending on old settlements, which add up to more than hundred thousand. And there must be a guarantee of resources for the settlements on an annual basis. Included in this program are improvements on physical and/or social structures, like childcare centers, playing fields, community houses, laundry facilities, and other collective installations that the community may need.

A national program needs to be implemented for reforestation on areas slated for agrarian reform as well as on the lands of small producers, with areas up to 2 hectares per family per year. These areas should be planted with native tree species and fruit trees. The state governments and INCRA could donate seedlings and give technical advice, and the federal government would give its support by paying monthly labor charges, through a green card, on the CEF, which could even substitute the Bolsa Familia Program (a federal subsidy program for families) in rural areas, for those who have land. And such payment should be given preferentially to women and youth.

A special program should be implemented a special program for financing the installation of agro-industries, with subsidized resources from public banks.

There should be an industrial program for agricultural machinery and tractors to be used on small farms and areas of agrarian reform. The current structure of the industry, based only on large machinery, does not serve the needs of agrarian reform. Industrial and business projects do exist, but there is a lack of rural credit destined specifically to this end, especially situations of hardship and needed subsidies. We recommend that a tripartite commission be created--the government, business, and agrarian reform entities--in order to present proposals for the necessary measures.

III - Education in the Agrarian Reform Areas

To strengthen and expand PRONERA (an adult literacy program) as a vital program, directing the necessary resources toward the existing demand for courses which are presented anually by the movements in partnerships with the Universities and/or other Institutions of Education. Right now the resources are limited and there is a serious problem of discontinuity of reviews.

To strengthen Rural Education's institutional space in the Ministry of Education and Culture, with expansion of resources, servers and actions articulated in the agreement of the Ministry's offices and amongst similar Ministries.

To implement a national campaign for literacy amongst rural youth and adults in the in partnership with entities and Social Movements that act in the countryside. The goal is the elimination of illiteracy. – Alter the Literate Brazil Program in such a way that it considers the special demands of the countryside and includes continuing education for teachers.

To implement a program establishing technical schools at the secondary level in all the areas of agrarian reform for which there is demand. – One immediate possibility is the inclusion of settlements as vital areas for the expansion of the federal network of technical schools, especially for the establishment of decentralized teaching units, as the MST proposed to SETEC/MEC in November of 2006.

To implement a broad education program for agroecology specialists in every Brazilian state.

That the Ministry of Education deliver a plan (perhaps connected with MDA and MCT) with the state secretaries of education to guarantee the establishment of public secondary schools in the areas of agrarian reform, including construction of schools on the settlements, improvement of the infrastructure and public collaboration or hiring of specific education professionals.

We support the national campaign to include compulsory secondary education in Brazilian legislation as a part of basic education and, therefore, the establishment of goals for its universalization through free, public access.

IV -  Administrative measures

1. We call for INCRA to be tied directly to the President of the Republic..

2.  We call for the immediate hiring of an additional 3000 public employees. The decree that was published called for the hiring of 4500 but so far only 1500 have been hired.

3. We call for CONAB to be linked to INCRA as a support business for agrarian reform.

4. Since the current model failed, we call for the creation of a public institute as the most rapid and suitable administrative form of training the farmers in settlements and implementing technical assistance and rural extension as a public service.

Mr. President, as a social movement we are also representatives of that portion of our people who live in the countryside. With respect to other government policies, we uphold the need for a new economic policy that prioritizes development with income distribution. Income distribution means preserving the rights of the working class, increasing wages in general and especially the minimum wage, distributing land, and having a massive job-creation program for youth.

We uphold the need for a policy that democratizes the mass media, halting the closing of community radion stations, and providing government support for making them viable as well as a public network of open TV stations in partnership with other groups in civil society.

We are dissatisfied with the way in which the Biosecurity Law is being applied. It protects the interests of the multinational corporations who wish to dominate our agriculture with genetically modified seeds. We demand that the government ensure the fulfillment of the law that requires the labelling of products that contain GMOs and that are being sold in our supermarkets without any control or inspection.

Believing in your commitment to improving the conditions of life for working people in the countryside, we await your determination for these measures to effectively implemented.

In Struggle,