Brazil: Joao Pedro Stedile (MST) 'The coup-plotters have made their intentions clear'

Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) leader Joao Pedro Stedile.
By Joao Pedro Stedile, translated by Federico Fuentes May 26, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal translated from Brasil de Fato -- It only took a few hours or days for the provisional government of the coup-plotters to install themselves and demonstrate their intentions through the composition of its cabinet, the plans it has announced and its public declarations. The Senate only forced president Dilma Rousseff to temporarily step aside and provisionally installed Michel Temer. According to some lawyers, the constitution stipulates that the vice-president cannot reshuffle the cabinet. He should be limited to administrative acts until the merits of the case against Dilma are decided. But the last thing that the coup-plotters and their accomplices in the Federal Supreme Court are doing is respecting the constitution. At the moment, anything goes. As [former president Ignacio] Lula [da Silva] said, it is as if “you went on holidays and left someone to provisionally look after your house, and they sold it and remodelled everything inside.” The cabinet of the coup-plotters is a joke. A genuine festival of thieves. All men, white, hypocrites and rotten. The Rede Globo [media conglomerate] campaigned intensely over the last few months, insinuating that president Dilma should be deposed due to the levels of corruption in her government. The petty bourgeoisie that mobilised in the streets clamoured for the return of the military dictatorship to put an end to the corrupt PTers. Well, among Temer’s newly appointed ministers, there are no less than seven who are currently facing accusations as a result of Operation Lava Jato (Car Wash) and other anti-corruption investigations. As politician Ciro Gomes said, “they handed over the government to a trade union of criminals” and no one had the courage to put them on trial. The measures announced or already taken by the coup government are a tragedy for the life and future of the Brazilian people. But they are coherent with its neoliberal plan to reduce the cost of labour, hand over our resources, privatize what they can and redirect public funds that were going to education, health and social security to business owners. As the investigator and economist Marcio Pochmann warned, “what is at stake is the private appropriation of public funds that are the equivalent of up to 10% of GDP!” They have already proposed a provisional measure that allows for the potential privatization of all state companies, such as Petrobras, electricity companies, ports and airports. They will probably start with the electricity companies and the pre-salt reserves – recently found reserves of deep-water oil. In response, there will be a national protest on June 6 in Rio de Janiero to denounce this attack on our national sovereignty. In terms of social security, they want to impose a minimum retirement age of 65 for men and women in the countryside and the city, and a pension no longer tied to the minimum wage. This would be a tragedy for the working class. In terms of healthcare, they have announced cuts to the Universal Health System (SUS) and the end of the More Doctors program, that covers 50 million poor Brazilians living in areas where no white coats had gone before. They are even talking about cutting the Emergency Mobile Attention System (SAMU). In terms of interest rates, nothing has been said about the R$500 billion designated each year to bankers through the payment of the internal debt. This is why they put two bankers in charge of looking after the chicken coop: Henrique Meirelles (Minister of the Treasury) and Illan Goldfain (Central Bank), whose family lives in Israel because they view Brazil as a dangerous country…. Poor us, the 210 million humans who live here. In agriculture and land reform, as well as the social measures outlined above that affect the poorest in the countryside, they had no problems with closing the Ministry for Agricultural Development and its programs that attended to peasants. We can all agree that the coup government has been didactic. It has made it clear to the people what its interests are and how it will act. That is why all the popular movements and organisations that are part of the Popular Brazil Front and the People Without Fear Front, along with other coalitions, have united behind the slogan “No to the coup, Temer Out!” None of us will accept a process of negotiation or sit at the table with representatives of an illegitimate and unpatriotic coup government. Thankfully, Brazilian society and the international community has quickly understood the nature of this illegitimate government. And the slogan “No to the coup, Temer out!” has reverberated in numerous events, public acts and ceremonies. Outside the country, hundreds of protests have occurred in front of Brazilian embassies. The international media that continues to follow the manual of listening to both sides, demoralized the local media by denouncing the character of the coup in editorials and news items. Personalities from around the world have spoken out. Pope Francis drew attention to the “soft coups” underway in some countries, although he did not directly cite Brazil. The respected US academic Noam Chomsky, as well as Nobel prize winners such as Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Rigoberta Menchu, and even artists at the Cannes film festival have expressed their solidarity and denounced the coup. In Brazil, public protests have multiplied as diverse sectors take to the streets, including high school students and artists and intellectuals who for the first time occupied more than 20 offices of the National Arts Foundation (Funarte) across the country, forcing the coup-plotters to reinstate the Ministry of Culture. Young people have returned to the streets to protest. And where are those who supported the coup? The “greens and yellows” against corruption? They are embarrassed, at home, as they helped hand over the cheese to the Jucas, Padilhas, Gedeis and other specialists in public funds. They have disappeared. Certainly, from now on the popular mobilisations will increase in size and numbers of sectors mobilized. The Popular Brazil Front has organized a calendar of mobilisations and activities across the country for the next few months. Within the trade union movement, the drums have begun to sound in preparation for a general strike, paralysing productive activities in opposition to the measures of the coup government. Moreover, solidarity with president Dilma is increasing, despite the various criticisms we have made in regards to the past few years of her term. She has been invited to participate in numerous mass activities in Brazil, where we will loudly and clearly say that 54 million voters – the majority of the Brazilian people – elected her to govern the country until 2018.

By Clifford Andrew Welch
Contributing Editor/UNIFESP

On May 31, Valdir Misnerovicz, an important and effective organizer of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil was arrested while teaching a class on agricultural coops in Veranópolis, a city in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. The arrest did not stem from his lectures, but from his activism. To organize the poor to occupy land in the name of fulfilling Brazil’s constitutional mandate to ensure the “social function” of land through its appropriation and distribution among peasants is considered illegal gang activity by the government of Michel Temer, which came to power last month in what many consider to be a coup d’etat.

The news of Misnerovicz’s arrest came a few days after a related revelation. In March, two high level members of the opposition against President Dilma Rousseff (PT), whose power was recently suspended as she awaits impeachment proceedings in the federal senate, were recorded while discussing the current political crisis. Senator Romero Jucá was taped assuring his colleague that he had recently spoken with “the generals, military commanders.” He went on, “Everything is fine, they told me they would ensure order. They’re monitoring the MST, I don’t know how, to ensure there won’t be any disturbances.” (See <…; Jucá, who recently resigned as minister of planning in the coup government due to these revelations, is the vice-chair of the Brazilian federal senate.

In addition to dedicating years to the landless movement, Misnerovicz recently completed a bachelor’s degree in geography at the State University of São Paulo (UNESP), where he studied in a special undergraduate program for peasants sponsored by the ousted Workers Party (PT) government. The author of this note was a professor in the program and Misnerovicz’s thesis advisor was Bernardo Mançano Fernandes, another LAP contributing editor. Misnerovicz studied the new demands for organizing the landless movemtne among Brazil’s urban poor.

The arrest of Misnerovicz on criminal charges demonstrates what Jucá may have meant when he said that the “generals” claimed to be “monitoring” the MST. While the warrant for Misnerovicz’s arrest was issued in the state of Goiás, where Valdir lives and works, his arrest occurred over a thousand miles away in a different state and was carried out by local police, indicating systematic communication and intelligence gathering in the execution of police work reminiscent of systems developed under Brazil’s long-lived dictatorship (1964-1985). This same system used such arrests to generate information through torture – recently confirmed in Red Cross documents from the period. These suspected connections increases the urgency for guaranteeing Misnerovicz’s quick release.

Please write to < > expressing concern over Valdir’s arrest and urging his quick release. Struggling for agrarian reform in Brazil is not a crime, it is a constitutional duty.