[10/3/05] MST Informa #100 A Life for Life

Dear Friends of the MST,

We are closely following the current hunger strike against the transposition of the São Francisco River. In this edition, we would like to give our solidarity to Bishop Flavio Cappio for his courageous decision to risk his own life in a final attempt to save the life of the river. He is prepared to pay the ultimate consequence for his decision, as it came after a long period of careful thought and reflection. Will President Lula allow something like this to leave a mark upon his government? We sincerely hope that his conscience is touched by these events and that he reverses his decision.

On a hunger strike since the 26th of September in the small chapel of São Sebastiao, in Cabrobo, Pernambuco, the waters of the Sao Francisco River are the only nourishment for the Bishop.

Tomorrow, Bishop Luiz Flavio will turn 59, the same day designated to celebrate Saint Francis. “We’ve been defending the São Francisco River and its people for 12 years. When we realized that all of our arguments based on reason weren’t sufficient to dissuade the government from carrying out the transposition project, we thought it would be better to adopt a more radical position. Who knows, if we can’t convince them through reason, then we shall argue from our hearts‿, affirmed the cleric in a letter to the people of the Northeast.

Through his gesture of sacrifice, Bishop Luiz hopes the goverment will give up its tranposition project for the river, arguing that the project seriously lacks transparency. “If they really wanted to solve the problem of water for the poor, they would have proposed a plan basd on where the river currently flows, not try to alter the entire course of the river. And, even 500 meters away from the current margins of the river, people don’t have water. This project introduces the big business of water management in Brazil. It will benefit big companies, the creation of a shrimping industry, and big irrigation companies‿, he says.

According to the Bishop, the government should provide incentives for and invest in methods that are proven to provide better access to water for poor people, such as small-scale projects creating watering holes, dams, and ways to take advantage of rainwater and water in the subsoil. “There exist many more economical ways to solve the problem‿, he added.

The Bishop received a visit from a representative of the president, Selvino Rech. A letter from Lula insisted on the advantages of transposition, but opened up the possibility for dialogue. “After we are no longer haunted by the execution of this transposition project, we are fully open to a wide dialogue and national debate, truthful and transparent, to discuss alternative forms of existence with the semi-arid environment, and the possible benefits or lack thereof that transposition would provide‿, responded the Bishop.

“And if the President doesn’t change his mind about the project?‿, questioned a journalist. “If the president doesn’t change his thinking, then the people will give up their life‿, concluded the Bishop.

For the MST, we believe that the Brazilian populace should be heard via a popular plebiscite about this issue, for example, like the referendum on arms and munition sales and so many other subjects that affect the destiny of Brazil. We need to adopt direct democracy in our country.

To sign the manifesto in favor of Bishop Luiz Flavio and against the transposition of the Sao Francisco River, go to:

Yours truly,

National Secretariat of the MST

News Briefs

Solidarity and Volunteer Work Week

The MST is supporting Solidarity and Volunteer Work Week from Oct. 3-9 in all the counties with MST encampments and settlements. There will be donations of Agrarian Reform products for day-care centers, hospitals, asylums, schools, and health clinics. The rural workers will also clean up public plazas besides planting trees in honor of the fighter Ernesto Che Guevara, assasinated on Oct. 9th, 1967.

Agribusiness doesn’t produce or encourage industry

The earnings of the agricultural machinery industry toook a fall this year. Between January and August of 2005, the earnings were 34.7% lower than the same period a year ago. The sector’s imports and exports also diminished drastically, demonstrating the fallacy of investing in agribusiness.

Day of Struggles Mobilized the Landless All Over the Country

Between Sept. 26 and 30, the MST executed a series of activities in more than 20 states, including meetings with the government. The objective of the mobilization was to hold the government accountable to the seven terms agreed upon during the National March for Agrarian Reform held in May of this year. Thirty bulidings belonging to the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) were occupied, as well as 21 unused, unproductive estates, 10 funding agencies in Sao Paulo and one in Minas Gerais, 6 toll houses in Parana and interstate highways in 3 states.

Translated by Friends of the MST volunteer Amy Catelani