We Are the MST, It’s Our Duty to Keep Fighting for Land and Dignity in Brazil

MST gathering in Brazil Regarding the latest reports that have reverberated in the media, the MST (Movimento Sem Terra – Landless Movement) national directorate would like to make the following public announcement.

1. Our struggle is for the democratization of property, which is constantly becoming more and more concentrated in our country. The 2006 census, disclosed this past week, revealed that Brazil has the highest concentration of land in the world. There are fewer than 15 thousand large landowners with estates of over 2,500 hectares and who possess upwards of a total of 98 million hectares. About 1% of all the landowners control nearly 46% of the land.

2. There exists an agrarian reform law intended to correct this historical distortion. However, laws that are in favor of the people only work with popular support and pressure. We apply pressure by means of occupying large properties and estates that are unproductive. Such property does not serve its social function as is defined in the 1988 constitution.

The federal constitution establishes that properties must be expropriated that fall under a certain level of productivity, do not respect the environment and worker's rights, and that are used for contraband or illicit drug cultivation.

3. We also occupy estates that are on public land and that have been illegally acquired through false deeds (grilagem), as is the situation for example, in the Pontal do Paranapanema and Iaras regions of São Paulo state (by the Cutrale company), in the state of Pará (by Banco Opportunity) and in the south of the state of Bahia (Veracel and Stora Enso). These are areas that belong to the state and that have been unduly appropriated by large businesses. Meanwhile, it is claimed that there is a shortage of land to settle landless rural workers.

4. The enemies of agrarian reform want to distort the events that happened on an estate purchased through the acquisition of false land deeds by the Cutrale company, in order to criminalize the MST and social movements, impede agrarian reform and protect the interests of agribusiness and those that control land.

5. We are against violence. We know that violence is a weapon that is always used by oppressors in order to maintain their privilege. Principally, we have the most respect for the workers' families that live on the large estates that we occupy. Rural workers are victims of violence. In these last few years, there have been over 1,600 of our fellow workers that have been murdered with only 80 of their assailants being put on trial. Cases where a punishment has been handed down are incredibly rare. Impunity reigns, as has already been illustrated by the massacre that took place in Eldorado de Carajás.

6. Families occupying the Cutrale estate took action as a last resort in order to call to society's attention the absurd fact that this company, one of the largest agriculture companies that controls 30% of all orange juice in the word, partakes in the illegal acquisition of land. We have already occupied their land multiple times over the last ten years while the population at large was unaware of this company's crime.

7. We considerably lament when unexpected events take place during occupations that do not represent the movement's overall conduct and practice. Generally, such deviations occur through the infiltration by enemies of agrarian reform, be they from the large landowners themselves or the police.

8. Fellow workers of the MST in São Paulo reaffirm that there was neither depredation nor robberies by the families that occupied the Cutrale estate. When the families left the estate, the environment was not destroyed, as was reported in the media. Family representatives that occupied the land were not allowed to accompany the farm administrators and military police that entered the estate following the families' departure. What took place after the families left and before the journalists arrived must be investigated.

9. There is a clear articulation between the large landowners, conservative sectors of the Judiciary, the intelligence service, rural parliamentarians and reactionary sectors of the Brazilian press, that all attack the MST and agrarian reform. They do not accept the fact that the poor have the right to struggle and organize.

During electoral periods, these articulations gain more political force, as tactics that impede the government actions that are in favor of agrarian reform,"frame" their candidates within their own class interests.

10. The MST has been struggling for more than 25 years for the establishment of true and popular agrarian reform. We have obtained important victories; more than 500 thousand families of poor rural workers have been settled. We have grown accustomed to face the manipulation by large landowners and their representative in the press.

We ask that society not judge us by what has been represented by the media. In Brazil, there is a history of distorting the truth in accordance with the ethics of large media that manipulates facts, seeks to do harm to workers and their struggles, all the while defending the interests of the powerful.

Despite all of these difficulties, our errors, and the Bourgeoisie's webs of lies, Brazilian society knows that without agrarian reform, it is impossible to correct the social injustices and inequalities that exist in the countryside. We have the duty to continue organizing the poor who live in the countryside and conduct mobilizations in order to realize the people's right to land, education and dignity.

The MST (Landless Workers' Movement) National Directorate

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