Joao Pedro Stedile, From Brazil, Addresses The Press In Sao Paolo

João Pedro Stédile.

Good morning, comrades, participants at the Via Campesina conference. We are honoured to welcome you and to launch this event, in which we will be taking part over the next ten days, until Sunday 20 June, when we will all be at a Sem Terra settlement to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the movement. I welcome you on behalf of the MST and the other movements that are members of Via Campesina here in Brazil. Members include a peasant women’s organisation, the Small Farmers Movement (Movimentos dos Pequenos Agricultores – MPA), the Movement of Families Affected by Dams (Movimentos dos Atingidos por Barragem – MAB) and the Pastoral Land Commission (Comissão Pastoral da Terra – CPT), a Christian church movement.

The Communications Team will be making what we are doing today available to the media in Brazil, Latin America and other parts of the world.

To begin with, I would like to say that this conference is very important to us, because of the historical moment that the country is going through, with the change of government, also because of the challenges faced by Latin America during the last 20 years of neoliberalism that have had such a major effect on agriculture, and especially because we are now facing very important challenges at the international level, related to the transnational companies’ desire to control trade in agricultural products, including food. In this context, it is very important that the peasant movements of the world manage to come together during this week to exchange ideas, visions and experiences so they can build unity in action when confronting our common enemy, international capital, represented by transnational companies and their oligopolies.

This conference is also important because it represents another step in the history of Via Campesina. As you all know, Via Campesina is a network of the world’s most important peasant movements, with members in all continents.

For ten years now, we have been building this network of peasant movements that are struggling to improve the living conditions of people in rural areas. Since the first conference in Europe, when it was decided to call the network Via Campesina, until today, we have tried to build links between those who are in struggle in rural areas. Rather than creating in a bureaucratic and vertical international organisation, we have tried to focus on linking the social actions of peasant movements.

In historical terms, the first conference, in 1996, highlighted the need for a network. The 2nd conference in Mexico, provided a very important opportunity to broaden the network and make it better known. We also remember that conference because of the massacre that took the lives of 19 peasants here in Brazil, at Eldorado dos Carajás, in Para, which led the conference to decide to make 17 April the International Day of Peasant Struggle. Since then, Via Campesina members in all countries have organised demonstrations on that day. The 3rd conference in India, in 2000, defined the policies and ideas that unify us. Now, here in Brazil, we want the 4th conference to represent a qualitative step in our work. In addition to discussing ideas, which we already agree about, we hope the conference will provide a forum to link struggles, build international unity and develop the strength necessary to confront international capital. One o f the results of the last 20 years of neoliberalism is that it is the same transnational companies that are exploiting peasants in Korea, India, Philippines, Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere. To confront the common enemy, we have to strengthen our unity, and organise joint struggles, actions and demonstrations. We hope that, at this meeting, we are able to exchange ideas about how our organisations can help each other to deal with the tasks of organisation, education and communication with society.

Thank you for coming to Brazil, I hope you enjoy your stay and that, in the course of the next eight days, we are able to get to know each other better and build links between those people in struggle.

São Paulo, Brazil, 11 June 2004.