[08-11-08] MST Informa #152 - Fight for Agrarian Reform and for free assembly

Agrarian Reform has reached a standstill all over Brazil. It was for this reason that, in July, MST workers from 12 Brazilian states protested in the streets, at INCRA (National Institute of Agrarian Colonization and Reform) headquarters, and farms, demanding the settlement of the 140,000 encamped families and public funding for the already existing settlements.

Encamped and settled landless workers pass through difficult situations. There are families who have been waiting for the expropriation of areas for more than five years, and many of those who have already obtained a piece of land do not have access to the rural credit and infrastructure that would guarantee good houses, basic sanitation, schools, and hospitals.

Only Agrarian Reform can resolve the food crisis, with the production of fruits and vegetables at prices that are affordable for the population. In light of this, we have a proposal for the development of the Brazilian countryside which includes, besides the production of healthful foods, the creation of jobs and justice in the countryside.

To carry out this proposal, investments in the creation of settlements are absolutely necessary—investments that fund agro-industrial programs for settlement co-ops and technical assistance to make production viable. In this way it is possible to generate income for the families and to create conditions for the social and economic development of the municipalities.

Up until now, economic plans for the Brazilian countryside did not take into consideration our expectations for a new agricultural model. If on the one hand, family and cooperative production struggle just to earn laughable bonuses, on the other the production of the large national and international companies with financial resources such as Cargil, Bunge, Votorantim, Aracruz, Veracel, Suzano, Vale and Bayer get a running start. In the past year alone, these transnational companies received 7 billion reais from the Bank of Brazil.

Due to the current government's economic policies, which give a high priority to the agro-export model, rural agriculture—responsible for food production in Brazil—and Agrarian Reform continue to be penalized. Today, unproductive land, which should be used for Agrarian Reform, is being given to foreign companies for the production of eucalyptus, soy, cattle, and biofuels, instead of food for Brazil.

The federal government owes money to the MST workers and the landless, and needs to fulfill its commitments to the Agrarian Reform. The Agrarian Reform did not move forward and the concentration of land ownership is increasing. Most of the settlements consist of old projects or public lands.

The politics of favoring agro-export, the rise of food prices, and the facilities given to transnationals to exploit the natural resources and workforce generate enormous social tension in the countryside.

And this is the reason that the MST and other social movements are suffering attacks from conservative sectors of society. The media, part of the judicial system, police units, and some state governments stop at nothing to criminalize the social movements in the countryside.

Recently, in Rio Grande do Sul, the Public Ministry sanctioned a petition to dissolve our movement. With an accusatory tone, the document condemns the use of books from Brazilian authors Florestan Fernandes, Paulo Freire, and Chico Mendes in the settlement schools.

Part of the process involved charging eight workers under the Law of National Security from the former military dictatorship. Furthermore, the document claims that the Movement maintains links with FARC (Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia). The Federal Police have already investigated and disproved this accusation, concluding that there is no connection between this revolutionary organization from Colombia and the MST.

In Pará, José Batista Gonçalves Afonso, a lawyer from the CPT (Rural Commission of Land), was sentenced by the Federal Justice of Marabá for participating in protests in INCRA on behalf of Agrarian Reform. At the time, Batista was assisting the MST and Fetagri (Federation of Agricultural Workers) in their negotiations with the organization. The same federal branch sentenced three other rural workers for violating an ordinance which prohibits protests on the Carajás railway, and paid 5.2 million reais to the mining giant Vale.

Right now, as Agrarian Reform is not moving forward and the repression of a project of the people in Brazil intensifies, the backing of our supporters in this battle is of the utmost importance. We continue to stand strong.

News Briefs

MST and the 2008 Elections.

The National MST Leadership would like to clarify that it was not at all involved with the statements of José Rainha Jr.'s group in the community of Rocinha, as was recently announced by various news sources in Brazil. José Rainha Jr. does not play any role in the decisions of our Movement in the national, state, or local government. The MST will not participate in the electoral process that will choose mayors and council members. The role of the Movement is to carry on the social fight for Agrarian Reform. Therefore, we aim to maintain our autonomy in relation to political parties and to the government. We propose, furthermore, the continuation of discussions and debates about the necessity of having a project of the people for the development of our country