lack of an effective agrarian reform policy feeds the violence
in Brazil. What is the difference between the landowner who
ordered the killing of landless peasants in Felisburgo, Minas
Gerais, and those who ordered the killing of the employees of
the Ministry of Labor in Unai?
What is the difference between the mill owners in Sao
Paulo who, through their administrators, daily work rural
laborers to death cutting sugarcane, and members of the
“consortium” who paid to have Sister Dorothy Stang killed?
In other words, what is the difference between the so-called
“modern agribusiness” and the old rural oligarchy?
Policy in the Lula Government: the Hollowing of Agrarian
Juliano de Carvalho Filho*
program of the government incorporates broad, massive, quality
agrarian reform as a fundamental part
of a new project of national development....” 1
epigraph above was taken from the document “Program of
Sustainable Development for a Dignified Life in the
Countryside” official text of Lula's government program,
introduced to the nation in the 2006 elections.
the 2003 government mandate was nearing completion, the
president promised “broad, massive, quality agrarian reform”.
Do the facts warrant this promise?
What reforms have taken place during the period?
As for rural violence - has anything changed?
first mandate of the Lula government was marked by the
stripping of the proposal and of the conception of agrarian
reform. An examination of the content of the principal documents on
the subject shows that the intention to implement a process of
change in the countryside has dwindled to
is no better support for this assertion than the word of the
organized rural workers.
three years of the beginning of Lula`s administration, on
March 6, 2006, in the city of Porto Alegre, six organizations
connected with the struggle of the peasants for Agrarian
- MPA, MST, MAB, MMC, CPT and ABRA – put out the text “Record
of the Lula Government on Peasant Agriculture and Agrarian
Reform in Brazil”.
document presented a “brief description of the many and
varied measures that were taken throughout Lula administration”.
It describes 39 of these, of which ten were considered
gains for peasant agriculture and agrarian reform, and 29 as
defeats for peasants. The
measures considered positive were the following:
of rural security benefits, which has been extended also
to cover rural workers and to guarantee the income of
small farmers, in case of losses due to natural causes.
The document recognizes that the coverage is still
partial, since farmers must contract a bank loan to access
the security program.
As a result, of the five million peasant families,
only 1.2 million would be able to access the program.
in the volume of rural credit made available to small
farmers – from three billion to eight billion reais
“Light for All” program, the aim of which is to bring
electrical energy in subsidized form to almost all
families living in rural areas.
The document considers that only families living in
the extreme north of the country have not been reached.
of the construction program and housing improvement for
in attitude toward peasant struggles.
The federal government has not repressed the social
movements, although repression continues on the part of
various states, through their military police. However, in
the case of indigenous movements, the document maintains
that the central government has not had the same attitude.
The Federal Police have repressed indigenous
protests in several states.
of resources for education programs in the countryside.
of the indigenous area of Raposa Serra do Sol, in Roraima
of the biodiesel program which projects the addition of 2%
vegetable-based oil to diesel oil with the participation
of peasant farming in the production of this fuel.
resources for technical assistance in the settlements. In
this respect, the partners highlight that this service is
neither universal nor public, insofar as it prioritizes
accords with entities rather than democratizing the public
system of technical assistance and rural extension.
although still weak and short of what is needed, for the
program of cistern installation (household water capture)
in the semi-arid northeast.
is clear, aside from the change of attitude toward peasant
struggles, the other provisions – notwithstanding their
importance – are disjointed.
As such, they do not signify formalization of the
agrarian reform foreseen in the official documents and
expected by the social movements.
above conclusion is corroborated by an examination of the
measures – or lack of measures – which the peasant
organizations consider to be defeats.
Highlighting a few of these is sufficient to show the
narrowing and debilitation of effective agrarian reform.
By this we mean the public actions are fundamental for
unlocking a process of agrarian reform capable of facing 'agribusiness'
– a euphemism for the current phase of capitalism in the
countryside, marked by an increase in the level of
exploitation of labor, through exclusion, through violence,
through land concentration, and through environmental
points which follow speak for themselves: lack of attention to
a commitment to prioritize settlement of families involved in
encampments; failure to update the indices used to evaluate
the productivity of properties for expropriation; maintenance
of World Bank policies – Land Bank or land credit programs,
the basis of the so-called 'market-led agrarian reform';
failure of the government’s parliamentary base to mobilize
in order to approve the law which expropriates farms that use
slave labor; lack of mobilization by the same parliamentary
base to impede the Congressional Committee of Inquiry on Land
Issues (CPMI) and the defeat of the reporter's document, with
the consequent approval of a separate report which exclusively
served the interests of the rural elite – among other
absurdities, this report considers the occupation of lands as
an act of terrorism; lack of persistence in pressuring the
judiciary system on the judgment and punishment of those
responsible for various rural massacres, such as Corumbiara
(1995), Carajás (1996), and Felisburgo (2004); liberalization
of the planting and commercialization of genetically modified
soybean; lack of government, parliamentary and administrative
initiative to remove the laws and measures of previous
governments that hinder the agrarian reform process; the
government initiative proposing legislation to permit the
leasing of national forests – in public areas – for
exploitation by lumber companies; and “non-implementation of
a full program of agrarian reform”.
last point summarizes the character of the agrarian policy of
the Lula government. The
intent to unlock a process of structural change in favor of
excluded populations has been abandoned.
government’s political performance points in the same
direction, and various studies show this.
The document “A review of the agrarian reform
program of the Lula government: subsidies for the internal
debate of the Workers' Party”, the texts of Ariovaldo
Umbelino de Oliveira, “The non-agrarian reform of MDA/INCRA
in the Lula government”, and of Bernando Mancano
Fernandes, “From cloning to autophagy: the dilemma of
agrarian reform in Brazil”; among others, prove that the
goals were not reached and that the figures of settled
families were divulged in a misleading (at best) way.
The Mancano article, based on information from the “Data
Luta” Data Bank, affirms that in the first three years
of the government, only 25% of families were settled on
appropriated lands. Besides
this, the documents inform that the settlements occurred
principally on public land and in the Amazon region.
The agrarian policy put into practice has not
inconvenienced the large landowners, and has even benefited
comparative analysis of the principal government documents on
agrarian reform, from the previous presidential campaign
platform - “Dignified life in the Countryside”,
through the “Proposal for National Agrarian Reform Plan
II” and the actual “National Agrarian Reform Plan
II”, to the 2006 election campaign documents - “Program
of Sustainable Rural Development for a Dignified Life in the
Countryside”, in its two versions, preliminary3 and official – shows the
change in character of the reform proposal: from structural to
merely compensatory like the “reforms” of the previous
the government no longer speaks – or speaks only vaguely –
about the various relevant issues highlighted in previous
targets have not been set.4
The reformed area is not considered to be
strategic for the implantation of agrarian reform5 - the settlements continue to be
implemented in a fragmented form.
It is not affirmed that appropriation for agrarian
reform purposes constitutes the principal instrument for
implanting agrarian policy – instead, this instrument is
seen as an auxiliary to buying and selling.6
An emphasis remains on programs of land credit (along
the lines of the Land Bank).
There is no clarity on the hindrance of the continued
scandalous regularization of land-grabbing in the northern
region for agribusiness.
The only promise which was clear in the current
campaign document, in its preliminary version, referred to the
very necessary updating of the indices of productivity. In the official version, this simply disappeared.
initiative is of fundamental importance for obtaining land for
Reform and confronting the interests of landowners and/or of
place of the express commitment in the preliminary version to
“update the income indices which inform the processes of
appropriation, making them compatible with the new platforms
of productivity reached in recent decades”,7
the official version contains the vague commitment to
implement “a new legal and institutional framework”.8
the official document for 2006 draws out many things about
family agriculture, as well agriculture in general, yet, as
already seen, very little about agrarian reform.
It imitates the Alckmin candidacy.9
Neither program has a structural character.
lack of an effective agrarian reform policy feeds the violence
in Brazil. Oliveira expressed this well: “What is the
difference between the landowner who ordered the killing of
landless peasants in Felisburgo, Minas Gerais, and those who
ordered the killing of the employees of the Ministry of Labor
in Unai? What is
the difference between the mill owners in Sao Paulo who,
through their administrators, daily work rural laborers to
death cutting sugarcane, and members of the “consortium”
who paid to have Sister Dorothy Stang killed? In other words,
what is the difference between the so-called “modern
agribusiness” and the old rural oligarchy? They are two
sides of the same coin. The de facto civil war taking place in legal Amazonia
– especially in Pará – between landless squatters and
land-grabbers with their gunmen is an example of this
condemnation of peasant women who defied the strong eucalyptus
company Aracruz Celulose also characterizes this period. The
legal system treated them, along with the MST and the Via
Campesina, as criminals. On the other hand, it benefits the criminal practices of
Vieira warns, the Judiciary, in this and other issues,
practices the “exercise of control over the impoverished
sectors of society...in the struggle for land, for the
millions of rural landless workers the door of the Judiciary
displays the same phrase as the door of Dante Alighieri's
Inferno: Renounce all hope, ye who enter here.”13
agrarian reform proposal with potential to change the rural
structures and reverse the situation of injustice was emptied
out with the passing of time.
Past events and the current vague commitments do not
warrant the claim of “broad, massive, quality agrarian
reform”. It is
essential to place this again as a national priority, whatever
the result of the elections.14