Land Reform in Brazil Moving Too Slowly
|December 31, 2005||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Land Reform Moving Too Slowly
Brazilians Seek Land and Liberty
Could you make a living without access to natural resources? If natural resources are “natural” and nobody produced them, why should one group draw all the benefits from them?
Here is some news about the landless movement in Brazil, combining selections from Prensa Latina and the Reuters news agency.
Thousands of landless Brazilian peasants marched toward the capital on May 13 to protest against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s slow land reforms and U.S. plans for Americas-wide so-called free trade.
Be sure to read “Free Trade” Is Not Free Trade
Protesters will target the U.S. embassy, Brazil’s central bank and finance ministry on May 17-18 in a call for “social revolution” against Lula’s economic policies and U.S. imperialism, leaders said.
The MST is among the populist Latin American movements backing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s alternative trade plans that counter the U.S.-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas.
“We want to send a message to Bush,” said Gilmar Mauro, an MST national leader who met with Chavez two weeks ago in Havana. “Get your hands off Iraq, respect Venezuela, Cuba and Brazil.”
Protest leaders are calling on unions, students and political parties to join the demonstration, which is expected to be the biggest ever outside the U.S. Embassy. The embassy said it would increase security.
In 1997, Lula’s Workers Party was the MST’s biggest political backer. The party subsequently flip-flopped and shifted away in order to help Lula win the presidency in 2002.
Lula promised to settle 430,000 landless peasant families by 2006 to combat Brazil’s chronic land inequality in which one percent of the population controls 45 percent of farmland.
But as few as 160,000 families will have plots by the end of this year, according to the government’s own land reform agency.
There was talk among marchers that the MST could eventually break with Lula, who faces re-election in 2006, if it finds new advocates like Chavez. Leaders said they remained loyal.
“We are not against the Lula government, but its economic policies,” said Mauro, adding the MST was sharing farm technology with Venezuela and had “no direct link” with its government.
Lula put land reform on the backburner after Finance Minister Antonio Palocci convinced him to cut government spending and reassure foreign investors he will not spend his way to a debt default.
Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues urged Lula to focus on big agribusiness corporations, rather than peasant farmers, to generate economic growth statistics rather than shrink Brazil’s wealth inequalities, which are the worst in Latin America.
The keynote of Lula’s electoral campaign in 2003 was his promise to buy disused land and redistribute it to poor families with no home of their own.
Authorities claim they have already settled a little over a quarter of their target, but MST points out the real figure is much lower.
Over 12,000 landless farmers arrived in Brasilia after a 200 kilometer (125-mile) walk from the city of Goiania, capital of the neighbouring state.
It’s been a hard task for Lula and his government to tackle poverty in a country that has one of the biggest wealth gaps in the world. Nearly half of all farmland is owned by just 1 percent of the population.
The Progress Report observes — Instead of spending so much money to buy out the land speculators, Lula should consider a simpler approach — land value taxation. Let the speculators provide the funds to buy out other speculators, costing the government nothing.
In their demonstration this week, the poor farmers want to highlight the government’s failure to distribute land and resettle landless peasant families.
They are gathering at the capital’s football stadium for a rally and then they will assemble around the city’s administrative centre, while security forces will be on alert watching over the rallies.
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