Cablegate: Embassy Brasilia
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BRASILIA 002692
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/10/2015
TAGS: PGOV PREL SOCI BR TIP
TIP SUBJECT: BRAZIL'S LANDLESS MOVEMENT INVADES AMERICAN-OWNED FARM
REF: BRASILIA 1317 Classified By: Political Counselor Dennis Hearne for reasons 1.4 (B) an d (D).
1. (U) Summary. Between three and five hundred members of Brazil's Landless Movement (MST) invaded AgroReservas do Brazil, an American-owned farm management company based out of Utah, as part of its "Red September" offensive, launched during the week of September 26. The MST's actions are aimed at pressuring President Lula da Silva to provide more resources for agrarian reform, and to fulfill his promise to resettle 400,000 families on undeveloped land by 2006. During the week, the MST invaded government buildings, farms, Banco do Brasil agencies, and toll bridges throughout the country. MST members have invaded and are currently living in private homes on the AgroReservas property in Minas Gerais. Military police officers have provided protection to the farm, and have confined the MST to the housing area of the farm. The farm's manager is hopeful that an eviction order will be issued to the MST during the week of October 10. End summary.
RED SEPTEMBER -------------
2. (U) During the week of September 26, approximately 15,000 members of Brazil's Landless Movement (O Movimento dos Sem Terra/MST) launched "Red September," a series of land occupations, demonstrations, and press conferences to pressure President Lula da Silva's government to devote more resources to agrarian reform, and to fulfill his 2002 campaign promise to settle 400,000 landless families by 2006. Other MST demands include greater GOB funding for family farming and the creation of a special credit program for resettled families.
3. (U) According to the MST, the GOB resettled 11,000 families last year, and between January and August of this year, the GOB resettled 4,000 families. Ministry of Agrarian Reform Executive Secretary Guilherme Cassel disputed the MST's statistics by claiming that the GOB resettled more than 50,000 families this year. Cassel admitted that the resettlement process has been slow, but blamed the delay on MST families who failed to provide basic identification information, such as Brazilian social security numbers, after being selected for resettlement.
4. (U) During the week, the MST occupied 26 National Institute for Colonization and Land Reform (INCRA) buildings, 13 Banco do Brasil agencies, and seven toll bridges in 20 states. The MST announced on September 27 that it would continue land and building occupations until the GOB met the group's demands. The group regularly employs the tactic of occupying farmland by hundreds of landless families until the government cedes title. In recent years, the MST has become more belligerent and more likely to invade government buildings, farms, or land owned by multinationals.
MST INVADES AMERICAN OWNED FARM -------------------------------
5. (C) On September 25, AgroReservas do Brazil, an American-owned farm, was invaded by 300-500 MST members who moved into employees' homes, blocked access roads, cut down trees, and demanded 10,000 hectares of the property's farmable land. The 70,000 hectare farm is owned by the Farm Management Company in Salt Lake City, Utah, and employs 300 Brazilians and four Americans. Although farm employees have not been able to access the housing area since the invasion began, they have been able to feed 7,000 cattle by entering the farm through neighboring farms, the farm's manager Macedo Genevil told Embassy Agricultural Attache. According to Genevil, military police officials have confined the MST to the housing area on the property, and farming equipment has not been damaged.
6. (C) The Minas Gerais state government has agreed to send an undisclosed number of military police to the farm, but before the police can be mobilized, a state judge must issue an eviction order against the MST. During the week of September 26, the state judge decided to negotiate with MST leaders before issuing an eviction order, and Minas Gerais military police agreed to remain on the farm until the negotiations have concluded. A Police Commander told Embassy Legal Attache on September 30 that the judicial process to evict the MST could be lengthy, and labor union laws and inadequate staffing may require the state government to cease police protection in the near future.
7. (C) Genevil subsequently told Embassy Agricultural Attache that the judge who wanted to negotiate with the MST has been replaced by a "new, more reasonable judge." Genevil sounded pleased with this decision and believed that an eviction order would be issued during the week of October 10. According to Genevil, the police will remain on the property until after farm managers meet with the military police chief to request a one week extension for police protection on October 5.
8. (SBU) AgroReservas is one of the largest and most technically advanced farms in Brazil, and the Foreign Agricultural Service often takes visitors such as the American Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau to the farm to show the scale of farm operations in Brazil. This invasion marks the first time that the MST has occupied an American farm, and while the invasion of the farm causes concern, post does not believe that the invasion was linked to the farm's connections to the United States. Embassy Agricultural Attache believes that AgroReservas was targeted because the farm is one of the largest and most profitable farms in the state. If this conflict is resolved quickly, post believes that the farm will sustain only nominal damage to homes and other items on the property. However, if the judicial process delays eviction of the MST and police protection ceases, the farm will remain unattended, leaving the farming system and its profits in jeopardy. DANILOVICH