On May 17, after walking more than 230 kilometers, the 12 thousand workers who took part in the National March for Land Reform ended their mobilization in BrasÀlia, the capital of Brazil.
In the morning, 200 marchers went to the National Congress to participate in a ceremony to honor Dom Luciano Mendes de Almeida. Afterwards, they met with the presidents of the Chamber of Deputies, Severino Cavalcanti, and of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, who complimented the March “on its organization and peaceful nature, showing once and for all that it is possible to make demands with civility”.
In the two meetings, the Movement presented its support for the creation of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for a hearing on the internal and foreign debts of Brazil and for the proposal of the Brazilian Lawyer’s Guild and the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, that guarantees the people the right to call plebiscites, besides defending the referendum prohibiting arms sales.
In the evening, camped out in the area of the Mané Garrincha stadium, the marchers headed out in the direction of the Esplanade of Ministries. The first place they visited was the U.S. Embassy.
There, they symbolically dumped the trash of our society with products from McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and toy guns. They put up two posters: “Bush: worldwide head of terrorism” and “We are returning your trash”.
Following that, the landless workers went to the Finance Ministry for a protest against the government’s economic policies. That same day at the Central Bank, the interest rate paid by the government to the banks went up from 19.5% to 19.75% per year, which costs the Brazilian people more than 900 million reais (US$ 367,000).
Plínio Arruda Sampaio, president of the Brazilian Association for Land Reform, gave a class to the marchers about the nature of the current economic policy.
“We don’t need foreign interference in Brazil to help the economy. We need to make a model of a full stomach, of dignified change, of efficient schooling, of a hospital open to all. And we have conditions to change what now exists in Brazil”, stated Sampaio.
When everyone was going to the Congress to begin the closing ceremony, where the parties and the groups were going to speak, there occurred the provocation that was organized and planned by the federal police.
First, a vehicle of the civil police, with no apparent reason, tried to enter the middle of the crowd, which caused some people to surround the vehicle. Immediately the cavalry of the military police threw themselves against the marchers while the helicopter flew overhead, causing hats and flags to be blown away.
According to the Jornal do Brasil, the military police had infiltrated 18 soldiers into the crowd, as if they were demonstrators.
The result was 50 people wounded and newspaper headlines on the following day. It was everything that the right and agribusiness wanted.
The strange thing is that this happened now, under a democratic regime. This proves that the reactionary forces act deliberately in the Brazilian state, no matter who is in power.
In contrast to the federal highway police, who during the 15 days of the march maintained good relations with the marchers and ensured their security, the military police of the Federal District appeared oriented to give difficulties to the legal protest.
From the departure from Goiânia until the arrival in Brasília, there were no instances of violence. In these 21 years, the MST never adopted violence to resolve the problem of Land Reform in Brazil.
Despite the attempt to disrupt the March, the closing ceremony was carried out as planned, with the participation of many MST supporters, artists, singers, and congressmen who recalled the urgency of Land Reform.
At night, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva received 50 MST leaders and guests of the Movement. Lula once again promised to guarantee the necessary resources to fulfill the goal of settling 400,000 families by 2006.
“If we do not fulfill the goals of Land Reform, we will have a problem with our conscience”, he stated. On the following day, a meeting with the Minister of Agrarian Development, Miguel Rosseto, confirmed the hiring of 137 employees for INCRA, the National Institute for Agrarian Reform and the opening of 1300 new positions.
Once again were stressed the other eight points related to concrete measure to speed up Land Reform, including the change in the productivity indexes that define when a property is productive, a new special credit for the settlement families, the guarantee of a restructuring for INCRA, basic food baskets, and a priority of settling 120,000 families by the end of this year.
About the 16 points that the MST discussed with the people along the route of the March, the government was silent.
The MST is making a positive balance of the results of the March. We succeeded in placing Land Reform once again on the political agenda of society and of the government.
We succeeded throughout the March in raising the need for changing the government’s economic policy.
And we gave an example of organization and a spirit of sacrifice to change the country, hoping to see a rebirth of the mass movement.
Now we have to continue organizing our bases, knowing that only the social struggle will succeed in bringing about the necessary changes.
In the various public events and in the press, the MST always remembered that the March of the Landless was possible thanks to solidarity.
We counted on the support of the mayors offices of Anápolis and Goiânia, and of the government of the state of Goiás (PSDB), which gave porta-potties, ambulances and drinking water, and also of the millions of nameless people, groups, clergy, NGOs, political parties, and lawmakers, who helped with the great effort that made this March possible. To everyone, our proud thanks.
A warm embrace,
National Secretariat of the MST
Landless Workers Movement – www.mstbrazil.org