Land Reform Leader to Tour USA
SAN FRANCISCO - Daniel Correia, a leader of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) of Brazil, will visit several cities in the United States April 13-25. His tour is being sponsored by the San Francisco-based organization Global Exchange. Correia is a state leader of the MST from Rio Grande do Sul. For the past five years he has coordinated education and agricultural training for participants in land occupations in Brazil.
In Brazil, the richest 20 percent of the population own 90 percent of the land. Much of the land is left idle or devoted to crop production only for export, while millions of Brazilians go without food. The MST was formed in 1985 to organize landless rural workers to defend their right to land. There are close to 12 million landless peasants and rural workers in Brazil; since its formation, the MST has organized some 130,000 of them to occupy idle land.
According to Ken Preston, one of the tour organizers, the purpose of Correia's visit is "to educate people about the situation in Brazil and to build more cross-border solidarity between the MST and groups in the United States."
The MST has become a major voice of opposition to the government of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who claims that he is trying to enact agrarian reform, but insists that the MST "are not just fighting for agrarian reform, but fighting against the capitalist system." Some of the land occupations have been met with violence from the government and the landowners.
The MST has also faced frame-ups by the Brazilian authorities, including of one of its central leaders, Jose Rainha, Jr. Rainha was convicted on trumped-up charges in the death of a landowner and a cop during a 1989 land occupation and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Evidence presented at the trial showed that he was in a different state at the time of the incident. There is an international campaign to free Rainha.
Between April 21-24, Correia will address audiences in California at La Peña in Berkeley, Stanford University, University of California-Santa Cruz, and either Santa Monica College or the University of California in Los Angeles. He will also speak at meeting at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; Tulane University in New Orleans; and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
On April 16 Correia will be the opening speaker at the Janey Conference, organized by academics interested in Brazil, which will take place at the New School for Social Research in New York City. Plans are in the works for other campus engagements.
Meeting with trade unionists in the various cities that host the MST leader are also planned, including with farm workers in the midst of a union organizing drive with the United Farm Workers in California.
For more information, contact Global Exchange, 2017 Mission St., Rm. 303, San Francisco, CA 94110. Phone (415)255- 7296. FAX (415) 255-7498.