Commission of Inquiry on MST aims to divert focus from crimes of agribusiness, says João Pedro Stedile

Sunday, April 30, 2023
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by Brasil de Fato | Original URL”

João Pedro Stedile, member of the MST’s national leadership, said the parliamentary commission of inquiry that has been set up to look into the movement, is an effort by right-wing legislators to destabilize the Lula government and deter agrarian reform

A Parliamentary Inquiry Commission (CPI), which has been set up to investigate the activities of Brazil’s Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST), actually seeks to divert focus from illegal actions committed by agribusiness, according to João Pedro Stedile, member of the MST’s national leadership. The commission was set up in the Chamber of Deputies this week.

In turn, Stedile proposed investigations into the activities of landowners and agribusiness.

“What we should have is a CPI to investigate those who carry out deforestation, who invade Indigenous lands, who invade quilombola areas, and who use pesticides,” he pointed out.

Although left-wing candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the presidential elections last year, the parliament continues to be dominated by right-wing forces, including those that back former President Jair Bolsonaro.

Stedile said that during the first Workers’ Party presidential administrations, a section of right-wing congressmen and their supporters kept making false allegations that the MST lived off public money. However, the national leader noted that the movement came out stronger after more than six years under the governments of Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro.

For Stedile, a key motivation behind the creation of the CPI is to try to destabilize the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT). “They want to frame the government. From the point of view of political struggle, [the CPI is] against the government more than it’s against us. It’s like saying to the government: ‘don’t advance in agrarian reform, don’t present a plan for agrarian reform, don’t help the MST,'” he added.

As a member of the delegation that traveled with President Lula to China this month, Stedile said that the movement had made progress on relations with the country. An agreement had been signed in 2022, initially with the Northeast Consortium, to obtain machinery for small farmers in Brazil.

After this month’s visit, it was agreed that Chinese companies will send about 50 pieces agricultural machinery for small properties. It is expected that the machinery will arrive in August and September and, after that, there will be a period of testing. The next step is the creation of companies with Brazilian and Chinese capital to manufacture, in Brazil, the machines that prove to be most useful.

“All our settlements need machines. Nobody wants to continue with the hoe. Even to substitute the herbicide, for example, which is an agrotoxin, there has to be a mechanical weeder. You won’t be able to hoe 10 hectares. But if you have a little tractor, you are able to weed and eliminate the [need for] poison, the herbicide,” he said.

Minister of Agriculture

Stedile also talked about the relationship with the Minister of Agriculture, Carlos Favaro. This week, Favaro in a statement to journalists, defended the right to land, but said that “invasions” are comparable to the incident on January 8 this year, when supporters of Jair Bolsonaro attacked the Planalto Palace and the seats of the National Congress and the Federal Supreme Court in Brasilia.

The MST member said that Favaro is “a serious man, who wants agriculture to solve the people’s problems,” and said he believes that the ministry is “in good hands.” He also said that the minister’s comparison is the result of common rhetoric among political figures.

“[Those are carrying out] invasions in the country are from agribusiness, which invades indigenous land, quilombola land, and public land. This is invasion. It is the appropriation of property for one’s own benefit. Occupation is a social mobilization of peasants, with their families, to pressure the government to apply the Constitution. And they mix it all up. The next time I meet with Favaro, I will explain it to him,” he concluded.