In 2008, we wrote yet another chapter about the struggle between the two disputing projects in Brazilian agriculture. On one side, small and mid-sized agriculture that produces food for the Brazilian family table. On the other, the big national and transnational corporations and finance capital that produce soy, eucalyptus, sugarcane, and extensive animal husbandry for export.
Unfortunately, Lula's government continues prioritizing the agribusiness model. It has conceded credit, pardoned debts, and relaxed environmental legislation, while the rural workers continue in their struggle for land reform and the settlers experience great difficulties in guaranteeing production and obtaining an income.
This way, the agro-export model is reinforced, based on large expanses of land, the use of toxins, negative environmental impacts, and exploitation of labor.
Also deepened this year were the politics regarding agrofuels that contribute to the increase in food prices by advancing over other farming industries as well as by raising the average values of agricultural products.
The agribusiness model, especially the production of raw material for fuels, contributes to world hunger in the same way that it boosts the profits of transnational companies such as Bunge, Cargill, Monsanto, Bayer, and Syngenta among others.
Meanwhile, land reform did not advance and the concentration of land increased. We understand that without social pressure, it is not possible for significant transformations to occur in our country, which is so marked by profound social inequalities and poverty.
For this reason, we took to the streets, we occupied land estates, we put pressure on governments for land reform, schools, credit, cooperative agribusiness, houses, that is, for living and working conditions. We denounced the agribusiness model, the crimes committed by the transnationals, the advance of transgenics culture, and the violation of our territory and biodiversity by foreign companies.
The fight for land reform is not simple. We confront the most conservative sectors of our country; those that attempt to criminalize a just and dignified struggle for better conditions of life. We confront the powerful companies and finance capital that want to control the production, industrialization, distribution, and commercialization of food.
Despite this, even in the face of so many obstacles and repression, we have had our victories. Our settlements in São Gabriel (Rio Grande do Sul state), in the heart of the divided estate, Chico Mendes (Pernambuco), in the former Votorantim, and the eviction by social welfare of a large farm operating by slave labor in Pará, are all examples of how with struggle and resistance, victories are possible.
Besides these victories, the crisis of the international financial system – the same system that manages agribusiness – revealed the fragility of the land concentration model. The prevalence of speculation and profit above all other interests of agribusiness was revealed to society.
The expansive cellulose projects, for example, that were threatening to turn whole states into "green deserts", collapsed with speculation, consuming public resources and leaving thousands of rural workers, fooled by promises of employment, without jobs.
The food crisis also revealed the priorities of agribusiness: seeking salvation in the stock market and speculating with that most basic of human rights: the right to eat.
Now it appears that only land reform can produce food and create permanent jobs in the countryside, in addition to the thousands of indirect jobs in the cities where settlements are installed, livening up the local economy and feeding the city.
Our struggle is the same as that of so many Brazilian men and women: a struggle for dignity and for a country that is just and fraternal. In the countryside, we fight on the side of those affected by dams, small farmers, indigenous peoples, quilombolas, and fishermen. In the cities, we unite with the homeless, oil workers, the unemployed, teachers, or in other words all the men and women workers who defend a popular project for Brazil.
The global economic crisis opens opportunities for our country and for the working classes. We cannot let slip the chance to change the existing economic model which impedes the development of social justice. Only struggle will be able to prevent the crisis from falling onto the backs of workers, with increases in unemployment and cuts in salaries.
In this context, we enter into 2009, a year in which we commemorate 25 years of struggle and of organization, excited and with the hope that the people of Brazil will rise up and fight for their rights. Happy 2009 and good struggles for all of us!
By the National Coordination of the MST (Brazil's Movement of the Landless Rural Workers).