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Brazil: CONTAG 'Grito da Terra' ('Cry of the Earth') Highlights Struggle for A New Model of Agriculture

Posted to the IUF website 23-May-2008

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The 14th Grito da Terra - Cry of the Earth - organized by the IUF's Brazilian affiliate CONTAG mobilized many thousands of rural workers from May 12-16, culminating in the presence of 10,000 rural workers in Brasilia May 13-14. CONTAG Vice-President Alberto Broch, in an article written for IUF Latin America, describes below the results of Grito da Terra 2008.

The significance of this year�s Grito transcends the interests of the rural working class, and concerns the entire country. It has been 14 years of struggle and negotiations in a mobilization involving hundreds of thousands of rural families. This has been a new step forward in the process of securing gains in public policies for rural workers.

This year�s Grito has a special meaning, because it is held at a time in which the world is engaged in a debate on agriculture, food production, the development model, and the restructuring of the industrial sector. One of the most important issues proposed by us is the need to analyze the model of development that we want for our country. It is a model based on family agriculture and against the agricultural system of large corporations, oriented exclusively towards exports. We denounce the slave labor, violence and impunity that plagues Brazil�s rural world.

It is also special because the mobilization was able to gather more than 10 thousand rural workers, in what has been one of the most participatory Gritos da Terra. This Grito da Terra has touched on a full range of issues, and has engaged in a dialogue with society and with the more than 4 thousand unions that make up the CONTAG as part of a process of internal discussion to consolidate the platform submitted to President Lula.

A platform of demands with more than 100 points concerning 20 federal government ministries was presented to the President of the Republic. The demands cover issues ranging from agricultural policy in general and sectorial policies on family agriculture, rural workers, social aspects, such as health and social security, environmental issues, agrarian reform, food sovereignty, and access to the country�s natural resources. We have insisted strongly on the need for a debate on the expansion of sugar cane crops for the production of ethanol, and on promoting several key bills that are under discussion in Congress concerning family agriculture and sustainable development.

During this past year, we have had to overcome very trying moments in our struggle, extremely tense moments in which we went as far as being on the verge of occupying the public facilities of the bodies involved in the drafting of agrarian policies.

The President of the Republic and several of his Ministers finally agreed to meet with us, and we were very successful in those meetings, as they responded favorably to many of our demands.

We obtained a significant increase in the resources allocated by the government to the National Program for the Support of Family Agriculture (PRONAF), more funds for technical assistance, and an almost two-fold increase in the budget for our new family agriculture commercialization program. For the first time ever we have secured the President�s commitment to modify within this year the indexes of productivity of the potentially expropriable lands for the agrarian reform, we have obtained improvements in youth and women issues, and we have also secured a commitment from the government�s representatives in the Senate to approve the provisional measure on retirement of rural workers

As a result of all of this, we believe that we have come out of Grito da Terra Brazil 2008 victorious. We haven�t solved everything, we still have to deal with some problems and threats, we must continue fighting for a different model of development, for the definition of a regulatory framework for the agro-industrial sector and single-crops such as sugar cane and soy, and for regulations on foreign ownership of lands.

We have obtained these gains as a result of the capacity for struggle and mobilization of our people, of our rank-and-file activists, and as a result of our unity and organization, especially in the CONTAG.