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By Silvia Ribeiro *
In its 30 years of struggle and construction, the MST managed to uproot 6 million hectares of land from the latifundia, where it established settlements for 350 thousand families, one and a half million people. It has another 100,000 families occupying land or camped on the edge of roads, demanding land. The struggles, occupations and camps are not and have not been easy, they are years of living under black canvas tents, often with violent repression, for which they have suffered dozens of murders of their members at the hands of landowners and their gunmen, police military and even militias hired by transnationals, such as Syngenta, responsible for the murder of comrade Keno in Paraná. Against the grain and as an essential part of their struggle, in each of these occupation camps and although provisional, the MST has installed a school, childcare center and adult training, as well as permanent assemblies. In each legalized settlement they built primary schools and there are 50 secondary and technical higher education centers in the movement, in addition to having achieved a special program for university education for young people from the settlements, which several thousand have already attended. Among many other aspects and achievements of this multifaceted movement, which is also a founding member of La Via Campesina international.
In its VI Congress, held in Brasilia from February 10 to 14 with 16 thousand delegates from all over the country and hundreds of international allies, the MST focused on denouncing the impacts of the Brazilian miracle and stating that food production is not It is a matter for the peasants, if not everyone, who demands a popular agrarian reform. Movement always on the move, they also announced a campaign for the profound reform of the political system, to end the purchase of politicians by large private and transnational interests.
With multiple testimonies from experts and militants, the MST congress showed that the vertiginous advance of the agribusiness transnationals, particularly favored by the neo-developmentalist governments of Lula and Rousseff, meant the expulsion of peasants and indigenous people from their lands and the quasi paralysis of the delivery of land for agrarian reform, in addition to causing enormous deforestation parallel to the installation of mega monocultures of transgenic soybean and corn, sugar cane and eucalyptus, with a brutal increase in the use of pesticides, devastation of soil, water, biodiversity and natural areas. All productions controlled by transnational companies for export, while the importation of food for the population grew. The biggest profits went to Monsanto, Cargill, Nestlé and other transnationals in the agri-food system. That half of the Brazilian population receives subsidies from the government to eat is good so that they do not die of hunger, but it does not make them sustainable and it is definitely not food sovereignty.
This agribusiness model, together with the crisis and the permanent search for financial capital from new markets, such as carbon markets, environmental services and programs such as REDD in forests and agriculture, has meant an increase in the dispute over territories and water, against peasants, indigenous people, quilombola and local communities.
As the MST explains, its main historical demand, agrarian reform, is not a revolutionary demand. It is demanding compliance with what the Brazilian constitution establishes, which is to expropriate the unproductive large estates and give land to landless peasants. But, they denounce, in Brazil there has never been agrarian reform: every piece of land, every settlement, every expropriation, has been uprooted from the government and the landowners with struggle, occupations and protests.
Now that every corner of land is the object of the greed of entrepreneurs, be it for monocultures, for mining megaprojects, dams, roads and other infrastructure necessary to the model, and that what is not cut down or devastated can potentially be sold to the speculative carbon market and environmental services, for the government there is no unproductive large estate for the landless peasants.
Faced with these fallacies, the MST launches the proposal and challenge to fight and build a Popular Agrarian Reform. Not only against the large estates, but also against the transnationals and financial capital. Because the production of healthy, sufficient and sovereign food, and the agrarian reform that this implies, is the subject of all the people, not just peasants. In response to their historical demands for land, and the fight against pesticides and GMOs, they now emphasize the construction of agro-ecological production, local cooperative agro-industries, the defense of biodiversity and cultural diversity, and the care and control of seeds. They invite and challenge all social movements, from the countryside, workers, environmentalists, critical political organizations, to join this new stage of resistance and construction.
Faced with the widely spread myth that we need transnational corporations and their transgenics to feed the world, the trajectory of the MST is a strong testimony to the contrary, which places a fundamental and unavoidable issue: everywhere, peasant struggles and their stubborn claim of the right to be peasants, are essential for the survival of all and that of the planet.
* Researcher at the ETC Group