Director-General of FAO Commends the Struggle of Women of Via Campesina-Brazil

MST Press Release (March 10, 2009)

On the second day of mobilization of the International Women's Day by Via Campesina, a committee of farmers has been received in Brasilia by the Director-General of FAO (UN Food and Agriculture), Jacques Diouf. At the meeting, Diouf heard a report of the actions that the peasants held this week to denounce the Brazilian government's priority to agribusiness and transnational corporations of the export sector, particularly agriculture while leaving the rural workers, food production and land reform in the background.

The head of the FAO said that the UN supports these proposals of Via Campesina and that their struggle is "just and necessary," and mentioned the role of agribusiness in the Brazilian countryside in increased hunger. For Diouf, the state should finance small farming, “since large agro-business is fully able to sustain itself." Diouf pointed out also that only the implementation of Agrarian Reform, the limitation of ownership of land and increasing rates of productivity are able to end hunger in Brazil. "A country has sovereignty and development only if it has land to produce food," he said.

Also in Brasilia, a group of about 350 women, members of urban social movement of Via Campesina, held a vigil in front of the building of the Supreme Federal Court (STF) to protest against the recent offensive against the rights of social movements. "Justice should arrest the killers of more than 1,500 workers and rural workers killed in the last decade, instead of criminalizing our companions in the MST, who are fighting for land reform, which is a fight for life," said Isabel Freitas, of the World March of Women. During the vigil, the women placed protest banners at the statue that symbolizes justice. In the Senate, another group of women of Via Campesina attended the launch of the Alliance of Peasant Environmentalists in Defense of Agrarian Reform and the Environment, along with pastoral social/environmental organizations and CNBB.

New Protests and Repression

The women of Via Campesina continue with the movements and activities around International Women's Day for an agrarian model based on small farms, through the implementation of agrarian reform and an economic policy aimed at generating employment for the population. Today (06/10/09), new protests were held in Pernambuco and Pará. In Rio Grande do Sul and São Paulo, women have suffered threats and repression.

In Pernambuco, around 700 women occupied this morning (03/10/09) the headquarters of Codevasf (Companhia de Desenvolvimento do Vale do São Francisco – Company for the Development of the Valley of São Francisco) in the cities of Petrolina and Petrolândia (PE), to protest against the advance of agribusiness in the region through large irrigation projects being implemented by Codevasf in São Francisco.

"The federal government, through Codevasf, is investing millions of reais in projects such as changing the course of the São Francisco River, the south Pontal and the hinterlands canal, for the construction of irrigation infrastructure for agribusiness. These projects displace hundreds of small farmers, peasants living in MST and agrarian reform settlements on the edge of the São Francisco River and who do not have any system of irrigation for their crops, and there is no public investment for the construction of such systems," denounced the Pernambucans.

In Pará, 250 women conducted studies on food sovereignty, agrarian issues in the state and violence in the Helenira Rezende encampment at the Fazenda Cedro, Municipality of Marabá. The farm, occupied from March 1, belongs to the banker Daniel Dantas and is ostensibly for the raising of cattle for export, one of the main reasons for the destruction of forests and local biodiversity. The area was a reserve for Brazil nuts; the concession for extraction had been given to members of the Mutran family - known in the region for its truculence and as the largest and most powerful landowners in the state – for life. Production of the Brazil nut was dropped to make room for grazing and the estate was sold to Dantas for R$ 85 million. In late January, the court blocked the sale of about 10 hectares at the request of the governor of Pará

Women also complained about the illegality of all 49 farms acquired by Daniel Dantas in 11 municipalities, many with false property deeds and suspected cases of slave labor. The Federal Police suspected that the investment in livestock is done for money laundering. Dantas is also being investigated by prosecutors and Federal Police for corruption, money laundering and in Operation Satiagraha (see below).

On the morning of Tuesday (03/10/09), platoons of the Military Brigade of Rio Grande do Sul violently repressed the 700 women of Via Campesina who were camped out at Fazenda Ana Paula, of the Votorantim Cellulose and Paper Company (VCP) in Candiota. The peasants were searched, surrounded by the Special Operations Battalion (BOE) and had their belongings destroyed. They left the area and demanded the release of six female prisoners and a priest who supported the activity. Again, women complain of a aggressive Military Brigade action against the social movements in Rio Grande do Sul. "Women and children are again the target of police violence in the state, whose government protects the interests of companies that degrade the environment, expel the peasants and do not create jobs, "says Marina dos Santos, coordinator of Via Campesina.

In São Paulo, also in this morning (3/10/09), bailiffs accompanied by a representative of Cosan (the largest (by capacity) sugar and ethanol mill in the world, symbol of the sugar-alcohol sector) tried to deliver a return of ownership to the women who since yesterday have occupied a part of the company's land in the municipality of Barra Bonita, São Paulo. Silently, the official representative of Cosan took delivery of the document. He threatened to use police violence to remove the approximately 600 women and 40 children that are in place. Private armed security guards without identification patrolled around the camp with motorcycles and cars in order to intimidate the women. At a meeting held in the morning, the women decided to remain in place and continue the cutting of cane for the expansion of the camp.

In Alagoas, about 1500 women yesterday (03/09/09)occupied the fazenda Campo Verde (65 km from Maceio, in the municipality of Branquinha), to demand inspection by the government and the consequent expropriation of land. The sugar mill owner and former federal deputy, João Lyra, owner of the farm, last year was notified of the practice of slave labor, when 61 workers were released by the Ministry of Labor.

The dominance of the farming monoculture of sugar cane generates in Alagoas a brutal concentration of land and wealth, producing poverty, exploitation of the working class and degradation of the environment. This week there will be an official request to the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) to inspect and expropriate the area.

Yesterday (03/09/09), protests were held in seven other states (Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Espírito Santo, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná) and in Brasília.

Brazil has 130 thousand families camped out (waiting for land rights - Ed.) and more than four million households without land. "The implementation of land reform and consolidation of a new agricultural model depends on the defeat of the current economic model. The provision of rural credit from the federal government for the agriculture business in this season (2008/09) is R$ 65 billion and only R$ 13 billion to the family farm, with exemption of taxes on exports. Export only of raw materials does not develop the country nor income distribution," says Itelvina Masioli of the Via Campesina.

 


Editor Note - Operation Satiagraha was a massive anti-corruption campaign launched by the federal judiciary in 2008 with Daniel Dantas at its center.

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