30 May 2007
Every April War on Want partner organisation the Landless Workers' Movement in Brazil (MST) hold a series of coordinated actions to protest the slow pace of agrarian reform. The protests - known as Red April - culminate on 17 April, the 11th anniversary of the killing of 19 small farmers by police.
Below, MST explain what they stand for and list their demands of Brazil's federal and local governments.
The Brazilian government is a long way from its goal of a fair agrarian policy. Instead of redistributing land to poor farmers, the government has given priority to giant agribusinesses that farm large estates using toxic chemicals. These farms provide minimum employment opportunities whilst maximising export, and those supplying the export market receive enormous government handouts in the form of low tax rates and vast loans from national banks. No other sector is so handsomely rewarded.
In contrast, the poor farmers who have been able to organise receive only minimal social compensation, like the Family Investment Programme, agricultural land in the Amazon away from major consumer markets, or vacant lots in old agricultural nesting areas.
For these reasons more than 140,000 Brazilians families and rural workers have organised and are fighting back, after being forced to raise their children in grim slums along highways because of government inactivity. We are mobilising and protesting around the country for immediate agrarian reform.
We are tired of waiting.
- Re-engage in the appropriation of unproductive farms. The constitution allows such appropriation, and key areas should be prioritised to grow food for the domestic market.
- Prioritise the appropriation of foreign-owned farms. Large farms, which often grow single crops, harm the environment through the intensive use of toxins and are responsible for the forced migration of workers from the country.
- Create an assembly of all the various public bodies involved in agrarian reform. This assembly must swiftly move to rehouse, the 140,000 families currently residing in the slums.
- Create an agricultural cooperative for rural families. Families would be able to maximise income from their work and employment would be generated for the rural youth.
- Develop a programme of education in the countryside. Such a programme could eradicate illiteracy and increase in technical courses designed specifically for the benefit of the young of the countryside.
- Provide technical assistance and to expand public control of redistributed land through a public body responsible for aiding the agriculturalists.
We hope that through these measures agrarian reform can be applied beyond mere paperwork.
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