Land occupation in Pernambuco. Image by MST.
The newspaper A Nova Democracia [The New Democracy – AND] reports that on April 3rd about two hundred and fifty peasants occupied sugar ‘’engenhos’’ (land with former colonial sugar mills) in the municipality of Timbaúba, in Pernambuco. This was carried out by the Landless Rural Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – MST) and is part of the struggle for land in the country. Along with the increase in occupations, they are also experiencing an increase in repression and criminalisation.
The newspaper says: “The land recently occupied by the peasants in Timbaúba is classified as ‘public utility land, for the purpose of expropriation’. The area belonged to the Ugina Cruangi company, but was expropriated by the state government in 2013. The three plots together amount to 800 hectares of unproductive land.
The occupation in Timbaúba took place within what the MST calls ‘Red April’, a month in which the movement intensifies its activities throughout the country. The recent land seizure adds to the dozens of occupations carried out at the beginning of the year 2023 by peasants in struggle against the crisis”.
This new occupation is not an isolated case, as the MST has for a long period been occupying land all over Brazil. For example, this year, on 27th February, 1,700 families occupied four large estates, enough to be able to give land to all of them, in the south of the state of Bahia. Another 120 families did the same in Chapada Diamantina, the national park of the same province, and in this case they occupied only one large estate.
But there have not only been land occupations. Throughout 2023, especially in the months of January and February more than fifteen thousand peasants were mobilised by MST for the struggle for land, blocking roads and occupy ing the buildings of the old State, according to AND.
Although Lula da Silva has made many statements in favor of the peasants and their struggle, the truth is that the situation has not changed since he became president. The landowners have decided to organize ‘cells’ (as they call them) to face the increase of occupations and mobilizations throughout Brazil. These cells are armed groups ready to open fire if it’s necessary to prevent the advance of the peasants. On April 4th a paramilitary group led by a big land owner showed up with the police at an occupied large estate in Bahia. This occurred after the Brazilian court ordered the return of the land to the large landowner.
31st March the Minister of Agriculture of the government of Lula da Silva compared the peasant struggle with the invasion of Congress. The minister also went further and affirmed that it is necessary to ‘arm the big landowners’ in order to be able to make a first defense of the lands.
“In the interview, the minister stated: ‘The invasion of land is abominable, as was the invasion of the National Congress on 8th January. We cannot allow it. The invaded lands are not eligible for Agrarian Reform. Court orders the recovery and the State complies. It makes no sense for the MST to invade productive lands’ unacceptably comparing the occupations carried out by thousands of poor peasants since the beginning of 2023 with the reactionary Bolsonarada of 8th January, financed by the big landowners and the reactionary High Command of the Armed Forces (ACFA).”