[OPE-L] Open Letter to Lula on Agrarian Reform

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Fri Mar 11 2005 - 16:05:35 EST


Dear President Lula and Minister Rosseto:

It has come to our attention through trade union leaders in Brazil  that
an increasing number of landless peasants in Brazil have been  murdered in
recent weeks as they fight to gain access to lands that  have been long
promised to them.

In mid-December, three landless peasants - all members of the
Landless Peasants Movement (MST) - were assassinated in S. José da  Coroa
Grande and Passira in the state of Pernambuco. They are the  latest in a
long list of murdered landless peasants in that state.

Jaime Amorim, leader of the MST in Pernambuco, denounced these
assassinations and pointed out that "to date no one has been
apprehended for these killings. ... The landowners' hired hands (or
jagunços) are well known, and yet no one is lifting a finger to
arrest them." (quoted in O Estado de Sao Paulo, Dec. 19, 2004)

A few weeks earlier, five landless peasants in the Nova Alegria
encampment of the MST were assassinated and 13 others were severly
injured in the state of Minas Gerais - also by goons hired by the  large
landowners. According to an article in the November 25 issue of  Folha de
Sao Paulo, "about 15 armed men, wearing masks, descended  upon the MST
encampment, machine gunning at random and burning down  the barracks."
Again, no one was brought to justice.

As trade unionists and activists in the United States - some of us
leaders of farm labor unions - we are deeply attached to the struggle  for
justice for all working people and the oppressed in the United  States and
across the Americas. In this sense, we are alarmed by the  violence and
injustice facing the landless peasants in Brazil.

We were heartened by the results of the election of October 27, 2002,
where more than 53 million Brazilians, with their votes, gave you and  the
Workers Party (PT) a mandate to enact - among other long-delayed  measures
- a sweeping agrarian reform program. Brazil's working
people also entrusted you to put a halt to the landowners' violence
against the landless peasants.

But, alas, we are compelled to note with great chagrin that the
long-awaited agrarian reform you promised has not been delivered. You
have rejected the Agrarian Reform plan commissioned by your own
government: the Plinio Sampaio Plan, which would have provided titles  to
the land to one million landless peasants over five years.
Instead, you downsized your own election campaign promises, pledging  to
give land to only 400,000 peasants during this period, with
115,000 targeted for land distribution in 2004.

The reality is that only 55,000 peasants received titles to the land  this
past year. In fact, during your first two years in office, fewer  peasants
have received land than during the first two years of the  previous
rightwing Cardoso government.

Worse still, the agrarian reform you have adopted has followed to the
letter the guidelines imposed by the World Bank and International
Monetary Fund. Agrarian Decree No. 92 - enacted recently by you, Mr.
Rossetto - now allows the large landowners to redeem the agrarian  reform
certificates they receive from the state for the sale of their  land just
two years after their issuance - instead of 20 years, as  existed
previously. Your government gave in to the pressures of the  landowners
who insisted that the fixed face-value certificates were  greatly devalued
after 20 years, given the high rates of inflation.

Bishop Dom Tomas Balduino, a member of the Pastoral Land Commission,
condemned the adoption of Decree No. 92 as follows:

"The government has now decided to carry out a 'market land reform'  just
like the one that was created by the previous Cardoso government  and that
was criticized so severely by us and by the Workers Party  (PT) itself at
the time. The government has submitted to the
pressures of the World Bank, which promotes this kind of reform
because it does not want to change the structure of land ownership."
(quoted in O Estado de Sao Paulo, June 24, 2004)

Dear President Lula and Minister Rossetto:

An estimated 240,000 landless peasants are currently in encampments,
mobilizing to occupy lands they need to feed their near-starving
families. More than one million other landless peasants await in the
wings. They are all clamoring for justice and for land in a country  where
the large landowners still own and control the overwhelming  majority of
the nation's productive lands

We, the undersigned, add our voices to the countless numbers of
unionists, activists, and elected officials across Brazil who are  calling
upon you to:

1) apprehend and bring to justice all the landowners and their hired
hands who are responsible for the hundreds of deaths of landless
peasants, and

2) carry forth with a genuine agrarian reform plan along the lines
outlined by your own Plinio Sampaio Commission - so that 1 million
landless peasants, beginning with the 240,000 who have occupied lands  in
the MST encampments, can receive titles to their lands, without  the newly
enacted two-year title redemption.

We urge you to do the right thing before more lives of landless
peasants are taken by greedy landowners!

Initiators of Open Letter in U.S.

Baldemar Velasquez, President, Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC,
AFL-CIO);  Alan Benjamin, Co-Coordinator, Open World Conference
Continuations Committee;  Ed Rosario, Co-Coordinator, Open World
Conference Continuations Committee

Initiators of Open Letter in Brazil

Julio Turra, National Executive Director, CUT Trade Union Federation;
Roque Ferreira, National Federation of Independent Rail Workers;
Edison Cardoni, Executive Board, Federation of Federal Public
Workers, CONDSEF-CUT;  Joao Batista Gomes, Executive Board, CUT of  State
of Sao Paulo;  Luiz Bicalho, Executive Board, CONDSEF-CUT;
Walter Matos, Executive Board, CUT-Amazonas;  Gardenia Baima,
Executive Board, CUT-Ceará;  Joao Bosco, Executive Board, CUT-Federal
District of Brasilia;  Roberto Cupolillo, Executive Board, CUT-Minas
Gerais; Maurício Rosa, Executive Board, CUT-Santa Catarina;
Josenildo Vieira, Executive Board, CUT-Pernambuco.

Initial List of Endorsers from the U.S.:

(titles listed for id. only)

Marty Fishgold, President, International Labor Communications
Association (AFL-CIO), New York, NY;  David Swanson, Media
Coordinator, International Labor Communications Association
(AFL-CIO), Washington, DC;  Ray Baeza, Chairperson, SEIU Local 715  Latino
Caucus, San Jose, Calif.;  Peter Kuttner, Nat'l Exec. Bd.,  IATSE Local
600, Chicago, Ill.;  Joaquin C. Pedroso, Transport
Workers Union, Miami, Fla;  Dr. Beatriz Urrea, Tucson, Ariz.; Helen  A.
Spalding, AFSCME Retiree Chapter 1184, Sub-chapter 146, Bay View,  Ohio;
Gabriella Canez, El Cerrito, Calif.;  Alli Starr,
Co-Director, Cultural Links;   Elisabeth Schoepflin, Youth Program
Coordinator, Collective Heritage Institute, San Francisco, Calif.;  Levana
Saxon, Oakland, Calif.;  Hal Sutton, Trustee, UAW Local 1268,  Roscoe,
Ill.;  Chris Kaihatsu,Chicago, Ill.;  Craig Gordon, Site
Rep., Oakland Education Assn, Berkeley, Calif.;  Francesca Rosa,
Exec. Bd., SEIU Local 535, San Francisco , Calif.;  Marlene Santoyo,
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Philadelphia, Pa.;  Joyce
Umamoto, San Francisco, Calif;  Timothy Stinson, Socialist Organizer,  San
Francisco, Calif.;  Angelina Grab and Sam McAfee, President, Vice
President, RadicalFusion, Inc., San Francisco, Calif;   Amber
Heintzberger, Campobello, South Carolina;  Katherine Hoyt, National
Co-Coordinator, Nicaragua Network, Washington, DC;  Joshua Sperry,
Organizer, CWA Local 9423, AFL-CIO;  Larry Small, Chair, Labor
Support Committee, No. Calif. Media Workers Union, San Francisco,  Calif.;
 Susan Quinlan, Northern California War Tax
Resisitance,Berkeley, Calif.;  Mario Santos, Organizer, SEIU-United
Healthcare Workers (UHW)-West, and Secretary, Filipino Workers
Association, Fremont, Calif.;  Evelyn I. Montez, OP, St. Joseph the
Worker Parish, Oakland, Calif.;  Maggie Phair, Peace and Freedom
Party, Van Nuys, Calif.;  Arturo Garcia, Coordinator, Pesante-USA,  Los
Angeles, Calif.;  Rebecca Burrill, Belchertown, Mass.;  Allan  Fisher,
Political Director, AFT 2121, San Francisco, Calif.;  Jahn  Overstreet,
ILWU Local 10, Oakland, Calif.;  Jamie Nunez, Founder &  Coordinating
Adviser, Social Advocates for Global Education (SAGE),  San Francisco, CA;
 Sergio N. Yahni, Forefront, A global network of  Human Rights Defenders,
New York, N.Y.

Initial Foreign Endorsers:

BANGLADESH: Tafazzul Hussain, President, Bangladesh National Workers
Federation, Dhaka, Bangladesh;  Zakir Hossain, General Secretary,
Bangladesh National Workers Federation, Dhaka, Bangladesh

BURUNDI: Paul Nkunzimana, President, Union of University Workers of
Burundi, Bujumbura, Burundi

CANADA: B. Ross Ashley, Service Employees International Union Local  1.on;
webmaster, NDP Socialist Caucus, Toronto, Ontario;  Ronald
Cameron, President, National Federation of Teachers of Quebec
(FNEEQ-CSN), Montréal, Québec;  Dave Bleakney, National Union
Representative, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Ottawa, Ontario;  Karine
Peschard, ATTAC-Québec, Montréal

DENMARK: The United Peoples, Esbjerg, Denmark

INDIA: H. Mahadevan, Deputy President, All India Trade Union
Congress, New Delhi, India

MALAYSIA: Irene Xavier, TIE Asia, Kajang, Malaysia

SERBIA: Charles Alverson, Parage, Serbia and Montenegro

PAKISTAN: Gulzar Ahmed Chaudhary, General Secretary, President,
Pakistan Workers Confederation-Punjab & All Pakistan Trade Union
Federation;  Rubina Jamil, Chairperson, All Pakistan Trade Union
Federation;  Aima Mahmood,  Secretary, Working Women Organization,
Pakistan;  Farid Awan, United Workers union TMA-Town Hall (Affiliated
APTUF);  Nasir Gulzar, President, Progressive Youth Organization,
Pakistan;  Fazal-e-Wahid, All Pakistan Trade Union Federation;
Junaid Awain, President, All Pakistan Trade Union Federation,
Karachi-Sind;  Rao Muhammad Nasim, President Sind Chapter, PWC
-Karachi (affiliated APTUF);  Muhammad Amin, Senior Vice President,
Mandiwala Mauser Plastic Industries Employees Union (affiliated
APTUF);  Muhammad Ishaque, General Secretary, Ittehad Carpet Labour
Welfare Union -Karachi -Sind (affiliated APTUF);  Ghulam Fatima,
General Secretary, Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF), Pakistan;  Ranou
Ahmed,  ice President, Progressive Youth Organization
(affiliated APTUF), Pakistan

PALESTINE:  Ghassan Abdullah, Palestinian Peace Coalition, Ramallah,

PHILIPPINES: Emmi de Jesus, Secretary General, GABRIELA Alliance of
Women's Organization, Quezon City, Philippines;  Nato M. Reyes,
Secretary General, BAYAN - Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic
Alliance), Quezon City, Philippines;  Fernando Hicap and Gerry Albert
Corpuz, Pamalakaya (National Federation of Small Fisherfolk
Organizations in the Philippines), Manila, Philippines



Jack Henning
Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus
California Labor Federation

Walter Johnson
Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus
San Francisco Labor Council

Baldemar Velasquez
Farm Labor Organizing Committee

Nancy Wohlforth

Ed Rosario
GCIU Local 4-N

Daniel Gluckstein
International Liaison Committee of Workers & Peoples (ILC)

Marta Ames
Past Executive Director
Pride at Work

Julian Kunnie
Professor, Africana Studies
U. of Arizona at Tucson

Patrick Hébert
General Secretary
CGT-Force Ouvrière

Frank Martin del Campo
S.F. Labor Council for Latin
American Advancement

Alan Benjamin
OPEIU Local 3
Executive Board member,
San Francisco Labor Council

Alan Benjamin & Ed Rosario

In Defense of Trade Union Independence & Democratic Rights

c/o S.F.Labor Council, 1188 Franklin St. # 203, San Francisco, CA 94109
Tel: 415-641-8616  Fax: 415-440-9297    email: ilcinfo@earthlink.net  web
page: www.owcinfo.org

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