During our time at the project in Rio we met many of the landless people(MST) who were living at the convent whilst studying at the local university. Despite the obvious language and cultural differences we soon became sympathetic to their cause and greatly impressed by their devotion to the cause.
There is a rising global trend by multi-national corporations to “buy up” surplus land as investments – according to the 1996 census statistics,hhh just 3% of Brazil’s population owns two thirds of all arable land in the country. The land owned by the 3% is often left unused, under populated or turned over to the commercial production of extensive cropping such as bio fuels.
In short, the MST strives to achieve a social covenant providing a self-sustainable way of life for the poor. It could also be argued that the depopulation of the rural areas further exacerbates the problems of increased urbanisation of cities.
The 3% continue to ruthlessly protect their interests as the following article reported earlier this year illustrates.
“Already in 2013, another two MST leaders – Cicero Guedes and Dona Regina – have been brutally murdered in the state of Rio De Janeiro. Cicero, age 48, was shot in the head on January 25th, 2013, when he left the settlement on his bicycle. Regina dos Santo Pinho, age 56, was brutally murdered on February 7, 2013 in the settlement of Zumbi dos Palmares, state of Rio de Janeiro. ”
On their website the MST explains that Cicero Guedes, who was a sugar-cane cutter, co-ordinated the occupation of a complex of seven farms; 8,600 acres is located in the Sate of Rio de Janeiro. Fourteen years ago, this large estate was subject to expropriation by the National Institute of Colonisation and Agrarian Reform(INCRA). However the process continued only recently, when it was approved by the Federal Court in August 2012.
Although only 11 years ago he had already managed to acquire land and become a settler himself, Cicero Guedes dos Santos remained a tireless advocate of agrarian reform. He taught organic farming techniques to families occupying estates and would always argue that the products obtained from ecologically sound agriculture are superior to those sold in supermarkets. His colleagues and family say that “nature was his source of inspiration.” Cicero Guedes leaves behind five children.
Non-governmental organisations say the number of landless activists killed over the past years has fallen but that the number of death threats issued against them has almost tripled.
If past cases are anything to go by it is highly unlikely that the assassins of these and many previous crimes against the MST will ever be brought to trial.
So would you die for your beliefs ?