Twelve thousand Brazilian workers left the city of Goiânia on May 2 for the federal capital city of BrasÀlia on a march for agrarian reform. Their goal is to unite in protest and call Brazilian society’s attention to the grave situation of poverty and inequality in the rural areas.
Coming from 23 states, these women, men and children are making the 17 day trip by walking the 223 kilometers that separate the two cities.
they should arrive in Brasília, this Tuesday, May 17.
Among them is Luís Beltrane, 97 years old, who is making his third agrarian landworkers march to the capital. In this collective sacrifice, marchers put their own bodies as tools of struggle in the search for a life of dignity for Brazilians.
The landless workers represent more than 550 thousand families in encampments and settlements in the country. They represent the unemployed, small farmers, rural women, youth, students, professors, indigenous peoples, social movements, and all who work for transformation and demand concrete changes to improve the lives of Brazilians. The National March for Agrarian Reform is the fruit of nacional and international solidarity.
Each day, the march begins at 5:00 AM. In the morning, before the hot afternoon sun, the workers march almost 20 kilometers. They carry books and pamphlets to study in the afternoon.
Inside each one, they carry the values of generosity and the will to arrive in Brasília. In the evening, there are cultural activities to sensitize and raise the level of awareness of participants.
The demands of the marchers include agrarian reform, changes in the economic policies of the country, and the denouncement of rural slave labor caused by agro-businesses.
In November, 2003 the government agreed to settle 400,000 families in 3 years. Less than 60,000 families were settled after one and a half years and the budget for Agrarian Reform has been cut by two billion reais. ($1.00 = $R2.50)
The money was used to pay the external and internal debt as well as bank interest rates.
The demand for Agrarian Reform has been around for more than one-hundred years in Brazil. The current federal government has also not shown the political will to bring about reform in the rural areas.
Reducing the exodus from the rural areas to the cities would reduce the number of favelas and slum areas, diminish social inequality, and consequently lower urban violence.
Land is not what is lacking in a country with 800 million hectares of land available for cultivation. Statistics prove that rural activity employs most people in Brazil.
More than 60% of the food that arrives on the tables of Brazilian families is provided by family farmers. Yet, their numbers are decreasing and unemployment and landless workers continue to increase.
The National Congress is one of the biggest obstacles to Agrarian Reform. It is a nest of defenders of large rural landowners. Until today, the Congress has not approved the Proposal to Expropriate Land in which there is slave labor.
This is one of the factors that impedes the punishment of those criminals who are guilty of the deaths of many who struggled for Agrarian Reform.
A government who recently had sufficient courage to demarcate the area of the indigenous reserve of Raposa Serra do Sol in Roraima is not worthy to arrive at the 2006 elections with a mere façade of agrarian reform, while thousands of hungry families are encamped on the sides of the roads because they have no land on which to live or plant.
MST – Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra
Landless Workers Movement