Landless rural workers and peasants from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe protested Tuesday morning against the slow pace of agrarian reform and against international finance policies. The demonstration took place in front of the Guerra Farm, which has been occupied by more than two thousand landless workers since the 28th of February. The farm is located in the municipality of Coqueiros do Sul, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. On Tuesday the International Commission on Agrarian Reform, of which Via Campesina is a member, went to visit the 7 thousand hectare Guerra Farm.
Upon arriving at the site, Commission members received word that they would be unable to enter the farm due to a judicial order. The landless workers occupying the land joined with the Commission along a road just outside the farm for a rally that included speeches by peasants from Paraguay, Indonesia and Venezuela. In a symbolic act of solidarity, Via Campesina Brazil presented all of the visitors with its flag and the Venezuelan peasants with a scythe, representing the struggle of farmers across the continent for a more just society. Following the rally, in opposition to the judicial order, the international representatives inspected the camp. For Edenir Valssoler, of the Landless Rural Workers Movement’s (MST) state coordinating body, the Commission’s visit to Coqueiros do Sul further strengthens the struggle for agrarian reform throughout the world. “This visit is very significant because the struggle for land reform and for a more dignified life for people, is taking place not just in Brazil but across the globe. This is important because the rich are also organizing themselves at a global level,” he asserted. The peasants, who received an eviction order from the Guerra farm last Saturday, affirm that they will not leave the site until the government settles all of the families. “The responsibility for our being here lies with the state and federal governments, which are not implementing land reform,” protested Valssoler. The occupied property crosses the municipalities of Coqueiros do Sul, Carazinho and Pontão, and has previously been occupied by the MST on three occasions. Felix Tubino Guerra, owner of the property, has a history of bank loan defaults and labor law violations. The federal government’s National Agrarian Reform Plan foresaw the settlement of 15 thousand families in Rio Grande do Sul by 2006. In the last three years only 220 families have been settled in new areas of the state.
Ângela Cordeiro e Raquel Casiraghi