By Mina Remy
May 21st, 2013
By Saulo Araujo
May 13th, 2013
Although Grassroots International does not support the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Bahia state, through our support to the MST at the national level and also our partner Rede Social (the Network for Social Justice & Human Rights) we are able to have an impact on thousands of landless families in Brazil. Those families and the nearly 300 in Bahia who, after 20 years, recently won their rights to land and a dignified livelihood, needed political support at the national level, lawyers to oversee their cases and defend them, training to document cases of violence and threats against their struggle, support for the movement as a whole. Resources they would not have had without Grassroots. This is solidarity not charity.
Cicero Guedes, a former sugar cane cutter turned land rights activist, worked in Campo dos Goytacazes, a settlement in Brazil. There he organized with the Landless Workers Movement (MST) to help families achieve what he had received: legal claim to land as part of Brazil’s agrarian reform movement.
For his tireless work, Cicero was murdered, shot more than a dozen times while he rode his bicycle to the fields. His assassination seemed intended to send a message to other would-be land rights activists: organize and you will pay the ultimate price.
On this International Day of Peasants’ Struggle, we recognize the courage, tenacity and absolute necessity of grassroots struggles across the world for rights to land, life and dignity.
And we recognize that all-too-often peasants continue to face threats, repression and even death. In fact, that is why this day was first commemorated, following the murder of 19 peasant land rights activists in Brazil in 1996.
Thousands of small farmers joined students, activists, unionists , human rights advocates and others at the World Social Forum in Tunisia last week. Among the many demonstrations and calls for action, the plea for seed sovereignty resonated with the peasant organizers who have seen their lands and livelihoods threatened by the “Green Revolution” and the incursion of industrial agriculture.
“There are thousands upon thousands who weren’t as lucky as I was—I survived hunger....I probably would not have survived had it not been for the support and solidarity of groups like Grassroots International.” Janaina Stronzake, an internationally known woman leader in the Brazilian land rights movement
January 28, 2013 was marked around the world as an International Day of Solidarity with Idle No More, a movement sparked in November 2012 by First Nations women in Canada, in resistance to legislative threats to indigenous sovereignty. One particular piece of legislation which Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is promoting, Bill C-45, would nullify provisions of provisions of the Navigable Waters Protection Act which since 1882 has mandated consultation and approval by First Nations for projects that could affect waterways on indigenous territories.
Below is a letter from the National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations (UNORCA) to officials in Mexico. UNORCA members began a hunger strike last week to prevent Monsanto from large-scale planting of genetically modified corn. They have called for international support in their efforts to protect their the biodiversity of this essential seed and staple of their lives.