Brazilian Land Crisis Escalates
In recent days the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) occupied or camped in front of the headquarters of INCRA (the federal government land agency) in eight states - Sao Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Parana, Goias, Alagoas, Piaui, Pernambuco and Sergipe. The organization also threatens to invade the INCRA headquarters in the State of Minas Gerais. Whilst each state group of the MST is making specific demands of INCRA according to the local needs, a spokesperson for the organization at national level outlined specific demands. Chief amongst these is the demand that an agreement drawn up between the MST, Milton Seligman (the head of INCRA) and Pedro Parente (executive secretary of the Ministry of Finances) on July 24 last be honored.
The government agreed to make available a grant of US $3 million for literacy programs in the agrarian reform settlement projects and to settle a further 51710 families. The MST claims that the government has not fulfilled its part of the agreement. Following are some of the protests which took place in recent days.
Over 5 thousand rural workers occupied the state headquarters of INCRA in Maraba, State of Para during twelve days earlier this month. The rural workers protested the line of action of the state head of INCRA, Petrus Emile Abib.
Mr. Abib has been head of INCRA in the region for the last year and had refused to dialogue with rural workers. According to the protesters, technical studies were no longer being carried out to examine areas appropriate for the exappropriation of ranches to settle the landless families, the landless settlements were abandoned, credit was not being made available for such settlements and the necessary infra-structural works in such projects were not being carried out. On August 25 last an agreement was drawn up between the Federation of Rural Workers, the National Confederation of Agricultural Workers and the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) of the State of Para with the Minister of Agrarian Policy, Raul Jungmann and the national director of INCRA, Milton Seligman that Mr. Abib would be removed from office and that the rural workers' demands would be attended. Since the agreement was not carried out, the rural workers decided to occupy the INCRA offices in Maraba.
In the State of Goias on November 24, the rural workers demanded the immediate settlement of a thousand landless families as well as the provision of agricultural technicians in the settlements and the freeing up of credit for planting and for infra-structural works. The regional director of INCRA, Aldo Asevedo Soares, resigned because of the landless families' protest. In Recife, State of Pernambuco also on November 24, approximately 400 landless workers clashed with military police during an attempt to occupy the Secretariat of Agriculture. At least 9 landless were injured during the protest. The landless had been demanding a meeting with the State Secretary of Agriculture, Fernando Bezerra to demand the legalization of three settlements in the state. The landless finally managed to meet the secretary during the afternoon of November 24. The following day, approximately 600 landless occupied the INCRA regional headquarters in Recife.
On November 25, approximately 500 landless from various settlements and campments in the State of Sao Paulo attempted to occupy INCRA's regional headquarters in the state capital. Their attempt was frustrated by the presence of military police who had surrounded the headquarters before the arrival of the landless. Members of the MST also occupied the INCRA offices in the cities of Florianopolis and Chapeco, both in the State of Santa Catarina on November 25. Here the landless demand the settlement of two thousand landless families in the west of the state. The regional headquarters of INCRA in Aracaju, State on Sergipe, was also occupied by approximately 800 landless workers on November 24.
On November 13, approximately 2 thousand rural workers who are camped in various parts of the State of Paraiba handed in a document to the Federal Court in Joao Pessoa as well as to the state governor and to the president of the Legislative Assembly manifesting grave insatisfaction with judges in the State of Paraiba. According to the document various areas due to be used for agrarian reform projects have been waiting an unnecessarily long period for the judges to sign the necessary legal documents. The special courts set up to deal with rural questions did not escape the criticisms of the rural workers who had the support of the Catholic Church and the Congress of Trade Unions (CUT).
Two occupations of ranches were reported from the State of Sao Paulo as well in recent days. During the early hours of November 23, 200 families linked to the Movement of Rural Landless Workers (MST) occupied an area of over 11 thousand hectares known as the Floresta ranch in the municipality of Promissao. The MST expects that up to a further thousand landless families will join the occupation during the next few days. Approximately a hundred landless workers occupied the Rodeio ranch in the municipality of Martinopolis on November 24. The ranch had already been purchased by INCRA to be used in an agrarian reform project. The landless demanded that the former owner immediately vacate the ranch.
Landless leader to receive important human rights' prize.
Landless leader Jose Rainha Junior will be awarded the International Human Rights Prize in Paris on December 11. The prize is awarded by the Committee for the Defense and Liberty of Human Rights of France. Various well known world personalities have been recipients of the prize in the past - for example in 1988 it was awarded to Nelson Mandela. We have reported in recent months on Mr. Rainha's trial on what has been termed by human rights organizations as trumped-up charges of a double assassination in the State of Espirito Santo in an effort to discredit his leadership and that of the MST. As a landless leader Mr. Rainha has been very active in the Pontal do Paranapanema region of Sao Paulo.
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