'Democratise the land!': Brazil’s Landless Rural Workers' Movement's letter to presidential and state governor candidates

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By the National Direction of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, São Paulo

Posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

August 2014 -- Electoral periods should be times for discussions on the major structural issues in Brazilian society, pointing out the nature of our problems and the necessary solutions. Unfortunately, increasingly, the power of capital hijacks the political and public institutions, preventing the political and economic transformations of interest to the Brazilian people.

For 30 years the Landless Rural Workers' Movement (MST, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) has contributed to the democratisation of land through the struggle for agrarian reform. In February 2014 we held our Sixth Congress and approved our Agrarian Program in defence of the People's Agrarian Reform. We fight for changes in the relationship with our natural resources, in the production of food and in social relations in the countryside. We want to contribute in an ongoing way to building a just, equal and fraternal society.

Land needs to be democratised and fulfill its social function. The countryside should be a good place to live, where people's rights are respected and they have decent living conditions. We fight for and we demand an effective, structured and massive policy of People's Agrarian Reform, essential for families to remain in the countryside, with production and distribution of wealth.  

We demand the immediate update of the productivity indices under Brazilian law, allowing access to land for thousands of families. We need the implementation of a National Plan of Agrarian Reform (PNRA) with goals for the number of families to be resettled and the establishment of priorities for the regions. Collection of land through the expropriation of large estates, recovery of illegally occupied land, and vacant lands invaded by speculative capital -- mainly banking, agribusiness and transnational corporations -- as well as farms with debt in public banks, in government agencies and areas identified with slave labour and that do not serve a social function.

We call for the immediate settlement of more than 120,000 families who are living in precarious conditions in hundreds of encampments scattered throughout the country. Allocation of land in irrigation projects and around the transfer channels for Agrarian Reform. Strengthening and reorganisation of INCRA, the agency responsible for agrarian reform in the country, with decision power.

Along with other forces in the countryside, we support the struggles and demands for the immediate demarcation and legalisation of all indigenous and quilombola [former runaway slave communities] areas and areas in the possession of people living along rivers, fisherpeople and the traditional communities established by the federal constitution.

The non-implementation of land reform exacerbates social conflicts in the countryside: we call for justice and punishment of the killers of rural workers and for those who masterminded the killings.

Brazilian agriculture should prioritise the production of healthy food as a human right and as a principle of food sovereignty. Food cannot be a commodity, a source of exploitation, profit and speculation. For this, we demand public policies that guarantee conditions for agro-ecological production of pesticide-free, high-quality, diverse, cheap food for all Brazilian people.

The federal and state governments need to provide encouragement and assurance in the production, selection and storage of seeds by peasants themselves, thus countering the production and marketing of GMO seeds and the political and economic dependence on transnational companies that monopolise their production and marketing. We are against the patent laws and the privatisation of our seeds.

For the social and economic development of the countryside, it is essential to resume and guarantee programs such as the Food Purchase Program (PAA) and National School Feeding Program (PNAE) aimed at purchasing all the food produced by peasant agriculture to serve schools, health clinics and universities.

Education is a fundamental right of all people and should be provided in the place where they live, respecting their human, cultural and social needs. All areas of settlements and encampments need to have their own schools, with necessary conditions for their operation. We do not accept the closure of any rural school and we demand the implementation of a massive program to eradicate illiteracy. We fight to defend, make universal, and expand resources for and effective access to the National Education Program in Agrarian Reform (PRONERA), ensuring that young people and adults who live in the countryside can advance in their schooling.

The settlement is our territory for struggle, production, reproduction and the guarantee of our life, a place for defending and building an agricultural model with production of healthy food and access to social and cultural goods. For this reason, it is necessary to ensure decent living conditions for rural and urban populations, producing a new sociability. We demand policies for the protection of natural resources and water sources, ensuring that all rural households have access to quality drinking water and sanitation.

We reject the privatisation of water. We struggle for the implementation of a program of rural housing, to ensure speedy, non-bureaucratic access housing, eliminating the current deficit of more than one million homes for the peasant population.

Expansion and implementation of access to industrialisation, with the consolidation of a national program starting with workers' cooperatives in a non-bureaucratic way. Ensure the development of technology that is appropriate to the reality of rural communities with the development of programs for agricultural machinery and equipment.

We urgently need the reorganisation of the public system of Technical Assistance and Rural Extension focusing on and subordinated to the needs and goals of the peasants, along with a program of rural credit that contributes to structuring the entire production unit and its various production systems, encouraging and strengthening cooperativism, marketing and industrialisation of production. We need the guarantee of labour and social security rights for rural and wage workers.

The commitment of everyone is required to carry out a broad political reform that democratises the institutions and gives people the right to choose their representatives. And for this we require the convening of a sovereign and exclusive constituent assembly in 2015.

These are some of the urgent and necessary changes to improve the living conditions and income in rural areas that all elected officials should implement. We reaffirm our willingness to continue the struggle to defend and build People's Agrarian Reform and a socialist society.