[8/07/09] MST Informa #169: Return to the streets for Agrarian Reform and for a Brazil free of Latifúndios

This month, the Brazilian working class will take to the streets, to protest and to discourse with the country at large about the economic crisis and its consequences for the workers of town and country. The MST will be out to promote our vision of Popular Agrarian Reform as a sustainable approach to social development, and to denounce the total abandonment of Agrarian Reform by the Lula Government.

We will be assembling a National Camp for Agrarian Reform in Brasília, where we will stay from the 10th to the 21st of August. We want to go directly to the government and to society at large to debate our proposals to improve the lives of people in town and country. We will be holding marches in many states throughout the country, and on the 14th we will add our voices to the diverse forces organized in demonstrations in state capitals across the country.

The MST has been very clear in our criticism of the Agrarian Reform program followed by the current government and operated by the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) and the Ministry of Agrarian Development (MDA). Our political stance has been made possible thanks to our continued autonomy from the government, and our continued struggle against the latifúndios and the big transnational corporations.

To the disappointment of all those who believed in the possibility of change, the Lula administration has followed the same agrarian policies pursued the Social Democratic government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, strengthening agribusiness with incentives for monoculture and export. With respect to small agriculture and Agrarian Reform, the government has maintained central policies like the National Program to Support Family Farming (PRONAF) (which has resulted in an average insolvency rate of 60% for settled families) and has continued to prioritize the settlement of families in the Amazônia Legal region (52% of all families settled by the two governments were in this area).

While this goes on, more than 90,000 families continue to languish in temporary camps, many of them for more than four years, or in settlements without the basic infrastructure to lead a dignified life and produce on the land.

Circumstances demand that we leave our camps and settlements and march on the cities. We want to press the government to fulfill the commitments it assumed to the landless following our march in 2005: the immediate settlement of 90,000 settled families and support for more than 40,000 families who are on the land without credit, infrastructure or housing.

We demand the updating of farm productivity indices to establish whether farms are productive or not. The Constitution dictates that these indices be recalculated every ten years, but, shamefully, this has not been carried out since 1974, greatly benefiting agribusiness.

We demand that all resources intended for Agrarian Reform be released and used to facilitate the settlement of all encamped families.

We know we will not be alone. This is the moment to forge political alliances with all sectors of the working class, and to protest the withdrawal of rights won for us by the common people.

It is vital at this time to defend and advance those hard-won rights. Florestan Fernandes proves more relevant than ever in his reminder to us all that we cannot let ourselves be co-opted or destroyed, but that we must struggle always! Always!

MST National Coordinators