April 17 has been declared by La Via Campesina the “International Day of Peasant’s Struggles” to commemorate the slaughter by the Brazilian police in 1996 of 19 peasants of the “landless” movement while they mobilized to get access to some land.
The land issue has becoming a major one in Brasil and the Movement of Landless Rural Workers MST have been very active.
On last April 8, 1,500 landless families of the MST occupied the landholding Putumuju, of the pulp and paper company Veracel Celulose (a joint venture of the Swedish-Finnish pulp giant Stora Enso and Brazilian-based Aracruz Celulose), in Eunápolis, south of the state of Bahia. They cut down around 2 hectares of eucalyptus trees to make way for maize and bean planting.
The action claimed the illegality of Veracel’s tree plantations in the municipality. The company occupies near 205,000 hectares of which some 96,000 are covered by eucalyptus plantations at the expense of the Atlantic Forest. Veracel’s deforestation with tractors and bulldozers during its first year of operation led on 17 June 2008, to a historic resolution of a federal court which ordered Veracel to replant those plantations with native trees and pay a fine of US$ 12,5 million (see WRM Bulletin Nº 132).
Furthermore, over 20,000 hectares of those plantations are established on lands belonging to the Bahia state government that should be destined to land reform for small-scale agriculture (“terras devolutas”) as the Federal Constitution determines.
The action aimed at raising awareness amid the Brazilian society about the urgency of setting in motion the standing Agrarian Land Reform as well as to denounce that Veracel’s power has led to the disappearance of several agricultural subsistence crops in Eunápolis and land concentration at the expense of peasants. The MST wants to discuss the tree monoculture production in the state and the regularization of the 'terras devolutas'. "Over the past two years no lands have been taken by the government for land reform" and, according to Marcio Matos from the state direction of the MST, "while one company has here more than 20,000 hectares of lands that should be used to end with poverty and hunger in the region".
The office of the Secretary of Agriculture of the State of Bahia, in the state capital Salvador, was also occupied on April 14, with the aim of putting pressure on the state government to comply with the promises made in 2007, including field inspection of potential land reform areas.
La Via Campesina calls upon everyone to unite on this April 17 for peasant's rights (rights to land, right to seeds, right to water...) organising a demonstration, a public debate, a movie screening, a local food expo, a fiesta, a direct action, a singing competition, etc. (To join the action, subscribe to the distribution list for April 17 by sending a message without text to:http://viacampesina.net/mailman/listinfo/via.17april_viacampesina.net)