mafia wine italy brazil

Owners Can Kill, Conquerors Can Rule, As …
murder of activists descendants india deed women’s rights land reform de souza access to land

Italy, India, and Brazil Reform Land Bloodlessly

Owning land others need can keep you on top for millennia. We trim, blend, and append five 2012 articles from: (1) The Telegraph, Apr 3, on names by R. Savill; (2) AP, Apr 1, on murder; (3) Truthout, Apr 7, on land reform by B. Bell; (4) Huffington Post, Mar 30, on rights by T. Hanstad (President & CEO, Landsea); and (5) AP, Mar 26, on the Mafia by C. Barry.

by Richard Savill, by Associated Press, by Beverly Bell, by Tim Hanstad, and by Colleen Barry

The descendants of people who in 1858 had "rich" surnames such as Percy and Glanville, indicating they were descended from the French nobility, are still substantially wealthier in 2011 than those with traditionally "poor" or artisanal surnames. Artisans are defined as skilled manual workers.

While the extreme differences in accumulated wealth narrowed over time, the value of the estates left by those belonging to the “rich” surname group, immortalized in the character of Fitzwilliam Darcy, in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, were above the national average by at least 10 per cent.

In addition, today the holders of "rich" surnames live three years longer than average. Life expectancy is a strong indicator of socio-economic status.

Popular names of the medieval elite who were descended from Norman families include Balliol, Baskerville, Bruce, Darcy, Glanville, Lacy, Mandeville, and Venables.

Popular artisanal names that emerged in the 14th century include Smith, Carpenter, Mason, Shepherd, Cooper, and Baker.

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JJS: Because those killings for land happened so long ago, we accept them. Yet they still go on.

Three rural activists working to win land were shot as they got out of a car near a landless workers' camp in the south-western Minas Gerais state.

A five-year-old girl, the granddaughter of two of those who were killed, survived the attack. No one has been arrested.

Police were questioning land activists about the possibility the killings could have resulted from an internal conflict within their movement. The groups rejected that idea and accused landowners of paying gunmen to shoot the activists.

Killings over land in Brazil are common, and people rarely face trial for the crimes.

More than 1,150 rural activists have been murdered in Brazil over the past 20 years. The killings are mostly carried out by gunmen hired by loggers, ranchers, and farmers to silence protests over illegal logging and land rights. Most of the killings happen in the Amazon region.

Fewer than 100 cases have gone to court since 1988. About 80 of the hired gunmen have been convicted, while 15 of the men who hired them were found guilty, and only one is currently in prison.

Brazil's agrarian reform laws allow the government to seize fallow farmland and distribute it to landless farmers. Nearly 50% of arable land belongs to 1% of the population, according to the government's statistics agency.

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JJS: Some people challenge the injustice.

Long before the Crusades, through centuries of colonization, to the oil-motivated wars of the present day, land has been the currency of religious, imperial, and national power. Farmers have been made landless by economic and political forces within their own countries, as well as those from far reaches of the globe. Spikes in food prices over recent years have triggered the latest wave of international land grabs, with investment firms snapping up agricultural land (50 to 80 million hectares).

Fair and equitable access to land and other resources like water, forests, and biodiversity is perhaps the most fundamental prerequisite for... a decent standard of living and... ecologically sustainable management of natural resources.

Ilda Martines de Souza, a leader in the MST (Brazil’s Movement for those Without Terrain), is a 64-year-old Tupi-Guaraní farmer: “Without firing a gun, we created a revolution. Without a death toll, we made revolution. Without shedding blood ... it's unnecessary. We take the land from one hand and put it in the hands of a thousand ... landowners would only use this land for cattle, and now we produce beans, milk, food, for the entire population.

The work for democratic participation of all is so we can get out of the cruel reality that most people live in Brazil. One thing that women don't realize is our strength. Mothers are the stars that will guide their children. That's where the future lies. If I were born ten times, and I had a say-so, I would want to be born a woman every time. The most marvelous thing this life has to offer is a woman's consciousness. She's creative. She doesn't lose the beauty of being a woman, no matter where she happens to be. That is one of the things each of us should be most proud of, to set our feet on the ground and declare: I am a woman.

What I have gained throughout the years the movement ... To raise all my kids here in this piece of land, in this paradise. What I have to do is contribute to the MST, to help construct other paradises for other families.”

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JJS: May her words inspire people of every gender.

In India, women whose names were not on their land title were being evicted when their husbands died or even when there was a quarrel between the wife and husband. Often, in-laws would lay claim to property and show no mercy to the widow or her children, leaving them destitute and homeless.

So we met with our government partners and suggested adding a second line to land titles. The government issued a revised title format with two equally prominent lines. And with this extra line on a patta, both husband and wife can apply for loans to make improvements to their land or start a small business. They both have security. And their children do too.

All innovation builds on gains from history. History is in motion and I've never been more optimistic.

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JJS: Some struggles have actually won government to their side to make a real difference on the ground (pun intended).

New Italian cooperatives making prize-winning wines cultivate land once held by the Mafia.

The project aims to boost the economy, creating a culture which rejects, rather than protects, organized crime. "The companies show that by defeating the Mafia you can begin to legally produce wines, oil, and high-quality agricultural goods in the interest of the workers and the producers," Sicilian Gov. Raffaele Lombardo said.

At the beginning, there were acts of intimidation, including arson fires set to just-harvested grain at one farm. When the project did well and created opportunities to work, the mood changed and the acts of intimidation stopped.

Some 40 percent of farmlands confiscated from the Mafia are legally in the hands of banks. Many Mafiosi, facing the loss of their property, took out loans on it and then deliberately defaulted in an effort to keep the property from being developed.

Each new wine is dedicated to someone assassinated by the Mafia. The white wine Grillo, which has been awarded a prize in the Gambero Rosso Berebene guide to Italian wines, is a homage to Nicolo Azoti, a union leader killed in 1946.

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JJS: These struggles to share land fairly reveal the decent side of humanity. Yet they also reveal the lack of awareness of do-gooders. Yes, it does matter who holds title to a parcel of land. But what’s more important is who gets the rent for land.

Ordinary people quickly lose their titles under certain inevitable circumstances, such having to pay off mortgages when the economy nosedives, or when the price for land or commodities rises and the richer buy out the poorer, or when a resource is discovered under or near one’s site that is coveted by the rich and powerful who manage to legally deprive occupants of most of the benefit.

To not only win land justice but maintain it forever, reformers and all of society must understand that the value of land -- all the money that people spend to own or occupy or control some location -- that worth of Earth is our common wealth that must be shared by all. We should not be taxing ourselves and subsidizing insiders -- as we do now. We should lose that wrongheaded revenue policy and instead adopt geonomics.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

Royal Legacies that Continue to Plague Most Places

A Brief Word on American Awakenings

A rise of progressive libertarians in the US?

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