MST Asks Brazil to Vote YES in Upcoming Referendum

On Sunday, the 23rd of October, close to 121 million people will vote in Brazil’s Referendum on Disarmament. The Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) favors the prohibition of guns and ammunition sales, which will serve to impede the violence currently devastating Brazilian society.

There are currently more than 17 million guns in circulation throughout the country. The free sale and movement of guns and ammo stimulates what can only be described as a genocide in both the urban and rural sectors. Guns are being used to exterminate young afro-brazilians living in the outskirts and favelas (shantytowns) of Brazil’s major cities. They are also used to murder Landless Workers in the countryside, where latifundiários (large estate owners) contract with private firms and hired gunmen, always heavily armed.

“Based on our own experience, members of the MST took a clear position in favor of prohibiting the sale of guns and ammo. It is our convocation of the people against violence, and in favor of life. Those who favor the sale of arms are the latifundiários (large estate owners)‿ states Jaime Amorim, member of the MST’s Coordenação Nacional (National Coordination). In his opinion, guns in of themselves generate violence, since those who carry guns are already predisposed, aware of it or not, to use them in the event they are attacked or in order to defend themselves.

Annually, over 40 thousand Brazilians die gun a related death. The majority of those who suffer from the sale of these arms are poor, while accidental deaths represent tragedies for families. In the past 25 years, over 600 thousand people have died gun related deaths. Close to 40% of these victims were between the ages of 15 and 24.

The battle for disarmament is crucial in the development of a culture that values life and respects human dignity. The referendum has allowed for an important opportunity to mobilize against the culture of violence, against the normalizing of intolerance and against inequality.

“Democracy is slowly consolidating itself. We hope that this referendum becomes one of many in Brazil’s history, and that we have many more in the future. The referendum process opens up a debate‿ affirms Amorim. He insists that the role of the referendum is much larger than this particular vote, and that in fact the referendum should be a tool for the entire population to address fundamental issues facing Brazilian society.

“The country needs to hold other referendums, principally in relation to the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) and other important international agreements that truly require a national debate‿ Amorim concludes.

This article can be found in its original Portuguese form: