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English Report

The rate of new settlements in the first half of 2005 was below what was needed. During this period, only 15.9 thousand families were settled, compared to the settlement of 21.7 thousand families in the first half of 2004 – which is an insufficient number.

Agrarian Policies and Rural Violence

 José Juliano de Carvalho Filho*

 “In view of these facts, Mister President, we came to you to ask that you honor your administration’s proposed commitments, as we do not know to whom else we should appeal (…).”

 The quote above was taken from a letter addressed to president Lula by the Landless Movement (Movimento dos Sem Terra – MST), on October 26, 2005, at the end of the People’s Assembly. It illustrates well what has happened to agrarian policies during the three first years of Lula’s administration.

 This article compares documents, summarizes the political performance in the agrarian reform realm for 2005, informs about the state of violence in rural areas for this period, and presents an analysis of the agrarian policies of Lula’s administration.

The hope and the facts

Three documents will be highlighted here, with the goal of comparing what was expected from the government’s policies, and what actually happened. The documents are: The first National Agrarian Reform Plan Proposal; the second National Agrarian Reform Plan proposed by the government – PNRA II; and the letter given to president Lula by the MST.

The first proposal for the National Plan for Agrarian Reform represented our hope for structural change in the countryside. This Proposal[1] proved the existence of enough nonproductive as well as unoccupied land available to conduct a massive agrarian reform, which means dealing with a great demand for land, estimated in 6 million families. The number of families in encampments has reached 180 thousand. The set goal in the first plan was to settle 1 million families between 2004 and 2007. The families in encampments were considered the preferential beneficiaries. The analysis evaluating the feasibility and the expenditures to reach this goal showed that the cost of the reform was perfectly viable. The proposed strategy to implement the Plan was based on “reformed areas.” This form of intervention included several public policies necessary for the implementation of a broad land reform, initiating a process of socio-economic transformation in our country[2].

The government did not accept the original plan, and announced the adoption of the PNRA II, a plan with much lower expectations. This plan, however, still represented the hope for some change in agrarian policy. The goals established for the 2003-2006 period were as follows: the settlement of 400 thousands new families; the regularization of land ownership for 500 thousand families; agrarian credit for 127.5 thousand families; to increase the productive capacity of rural settlements; and the regulation of 2.2 million rural land properties. As Ferreira and Conceição have pointed out[3],“both documents show the predominance in Brazil of an unequal agrarian structure, which imposes patterns of exploitation of the working force, forcing poor rural families to migrate to urban center, or to occupy unproductive land.”

 The PNRA II was negotiated with social movements, but its agreements were not respected, as the MST points out in its letter to president Lula[4]:

“(…) We would like to remind you of the agreements we made since 2003. In November of that year, when the government announced the National Plan for Agrarian Reform II, which included providing land for 400 thousand families, and which gave priority to the camped out families, as well as a new Agrarian Reform policy, we left happy and hopeful.

The time went by and the government did not take any actions to implement a broad Agrarian Reform. We are arriving at the last year of this administration and the goals established by PNRA will hardly be implemented. Minister Miguel Rosseto publicly recognized that the government provided land for only 117 thousand families. There is also other aggravating circumstances: 65% of these families were settled in the so called “Legal Amazonia,” which refers mostly to the legalization of occupied public lands, and do not alter the Brazilian agrarian structure.”

“In May of this year we organized the National March for Agrarian Reform, from Goiania to Brasilia, with the support and solidarity of the Brazilian society. We mobilized more than twelve thousand activists who walked for 17 days. At their arrival, the ministers could not give a concrete answer to the demands presented since the beginning of this administration. Thanks to your intervention, we ended up building a seven-point agenda of commitments:

1.        To guarantee the goals for settlement, as specified in the National Plan for Agrarian Reform.

2.        To give priority to the camped out families.

3.         To increase the special credit for the settlers.

4.         To re-structure INCRA[5].

5.         To speed up the release of all resources for Agrarian Reform in the national budget, which are still not used.

6.        To normalize the delivery of basic food baskets for the camped out families.

7.        To publish, in a few weeks, indexes for productivity, which determine how a land can be expropriated.

      Practically none of these demands were fulfilled. Today we have about 180  thousand families camped out throughout the country, who face all sorts of difficulties as they see start another agricultural year without land for planting. However, INCRA presented us with a plan to give land to only 15 thousand MST families.

This attitude characterizes disrespect for the promises you made during your electoral campaign. In addition, it represents disrespect for workers who are organized and fight for their rights.

The Agrarian Policy in 2005[6]

Many indicators show that what has been done in terms of policy implementation is far from what has been promised and expected. The settlements in the first half of 2005 were way below the desired number. In this period, only 15.9 thousand families were settled, while in the first half of 2004, 21.719 thousand families were settled – an insufficient number. The investments for a productive recovery and restructuring of settlements created until 2002 also have not reached the necessary level to attain those goals. It maintained the regional focus in agrarian reform projects on the Northern region. Half of the existent projects are still in the initial installation phase. The attainment of land in 2005 was achieved mainly through discrimination and recognition – “about 1.18 million hectares (76.4%), mostly in the Northern region, with only 205.4 hectares (12.8%) the result of expropriation process.” The budgetary implementation of the first semester repeated the previous pattern: sluggishness and difficulties due to curtailment of resourcesHowever, there was a significant improvement in the regional credit allocation, which benefited the most needy areas – North and Northeast regions. But the program is still limited and does not have sufficient resources. It can be added that, after its establishment, the program has been going through a systematic process of deterioration.

Rural Violence in 2005[7]

A survey by Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), or Pastoral Commission on Land regarding the period of January-August of 2005 shows a persistent violence against landless people.

During the period from January to August, 2005, 28 people were murdered – in the same period of 2004, 27 deaths were registered. The state of Pará was the most violent, with a murder toll of 14 people, followed by Mato Grosso, with 3 murder cases.  The states of Bahia, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, and Maranhão had two murder cases each.

The murder of Sister Dorothy Stang received the most attention. It happened on February 12th, in Anapu, state of Pará. Farmers and loggers in the region ordered the assassination of the 74 year-old missionary who held American and Brazilian citizenships. She worked and defended the Projects for Sustainable Development, to benefit the region’s poor population. In this case, the government repeated the usual behavior, announcing measures that never come through.

The CPT also registered 27 murder attempts, 114 death threats, two torture cases, 52 physical aggressions, 144 imprisoned, and 80 cases of rural workers wounded in 2005.

From January through August, the commission registered 794 conflicts in rural areas involving 615,260 people – 44% less than the number of conflicts registered for the same period in 2004, and 26% fewer people involved in the conflicts. However, the data equally shows that 2005 experienced an increase in the average of persons involved in each type of conflict – 774 against 589 in 2004.

The CPT also informs that 1,664 families were evicted from their land by the private sector, 10,990 families suffered eviction with a judicial mandate, and 8,412 families were victims of intimidation by gunmen. Mato Grosso state registered the larges occurrences of families evicted from their land by the private sector, with 320 families. In the same period in 2004 the number registered was 60. Amazonas state stands out featuring 400 families expelled from their land in 2005, compared to 131 in 2004. There was also an increase of displacements in the states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo – from 80 and 85 in 2004 respectively to 100 and 250 for the same period.

The actions of the judiciary, which determines the evictions, was intensified in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, hurting 1,680 families, followed by the state of Mato Grosso (1,485), São Paulo (1,380), Goiás (1,248), and Pernambuco (1,100). The Commission also points out the increase in evictions in Amapá (from no occurrences in 2004 to 70 cases in 2005), Santa Catarina state (from one case in 2004 to 53 in 2005), and in Pará (from 314 cases in 2004 to 849 in 2005).

The CPT registered deaths resulting from conflicts, either by lack of assistance, accidents, or by tense situations, threats, blocking access to food, which caused miscarriages, diseases and starvation resulting in death. From January to August of 2005, 67 deaths were registered compared to 20 for the same period in 2004. Mato Grosso do Sul deserves special attention with 27 deaths registered, and Minas Gerais with 26. The report tells us that the largest number of these deaths victimized Indigenous children who died of malnutrition and lack of adequate care.

According to Isidoro Revers from the CPT National Organizing Committee, from the 450 thousand families expected to be settled under the National Plan for Agrarian Reform, only 160 thousands were granted access to land during these three years of the Lula administration. To reach this goal, it would be necessary to settle more than 390 thousand families for the remaining time of this administration.”

In relation to the issue of slave work, the CPT registered 173 cases involving 5,407 people. From these cases, 72 were inspected resulting in the freedom of 3,135 workers. The state of Mato Grosso registered the largest number of workers rescued (1,426), followed by Pará (906), Tocantins (199), Bahia (186), and Maranhão (180). The document reports that for the first time an accusation of slave labor was registered in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, and that this practice is re-occurring in the state of Paraná, which had not registered any occurrences since 1999.

The number of workers in situation of slave labor was 13.6% higher than in 2004 (from 2,414 in 2004 to 5,403 in 2005), and the number of rescued workers rose 29.8% (from 2,414 in 2004 to 3,135 in 2005).

To summarize, governmental actions were ineffective when it comes to altering the historical pattern of violence and disrespect for human rights in Brazilian rural areas.

* José Juliano de Carvalho Filho is an economist at the University of São Paulo.

[1] Text extracted from Editorial section of the new edition of the Journal of Agrarian Reform, a publication by Brazilian Association of Agrarian Reform (ABRA), in the process of being published. The editorial is signed by Plínio de Arruda Sampaio and by the author of this article.

[2] The proposal defined the following goals: 1. To grant land to 1,000,000 rural working families living in poverty, a parcel large enough to allow these families to earn an adequate living income; 2. To assure that families and rural families benefitting from the agrarian reform actions receive a monthly gross income equivalent to three minimum wages, which computes the wage and the consumption values; 3. To create 2,500,000 permanent workstations in the reformed sector; 4. To consolidate the settlements already set from previous agrarian reform, but which have not yet reached the income goal set for new settlements; 5. To regularize the former fugitive slave settlements; 6. To regularize the situation of farmers living at the riverbanks, and who were displaced in order to give way to the construction of dams; 7. To resettle land proprietors, who own lands up to 50 hectares, and established homes inside the native peoples’ territory, outside those areas; 8. To effectuate a geographic referenced survey of the national territory in order to definitely legalize the land titles around the country; 9. To supply squatters and farm families living in areas of agrarian re-organizing and of territorial development with technical assistance, rural extension, and thorough proficiency training; 10. To achieve through the Safra Plan, farm credits and a guaranteed minimum price to settlers and farm families.

[3] Brancolina Ferreira and Júnia C. Conceição – “The rural development: Agrarian reform, Pronaf, and PAA;” BPS-11, DISET/IPEA (September, 2005).

[4] The author decided to reproduce most of the letter, for the sake of clarity.

[5] National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform

[6] Parts of this section were extracted from the article “The Agrarian Policy in the Social Policy Bulletin,” prepared for the “InfoINCRA,” A Bulletin of the Agrarian Reform of São Paulo.

[7] This section’s contents is based on the data received through the e-mail titled “Violence Data – Land Pastoral Commission’s Advisory Committee Communication” of 09/27/05