TERRA-ISTS STRIKE BACK
|It was the largest march in Brazilian history, but was
much more than a march. For a start it lasted 17 days. The landless
farmers movement, the Movimento Sem Terra, or MST, is
maybe the most dynamic direct action movement in the world.
Embarking on their most ambitious action to date they brought
12,000 marchers from 23 states to walk 238 kilometres to the
Brazilian capital Brasilia to demand land reform. From a frail
97-year-old man to an 18-year-old seven months pregnant, the
marchers took on not just the government but Brazils big
landowners in the decades-old fight for land.
The camp is like a glimpse of humanity happy with itself.
- Leonardo Boff, theologian.
If you saw what effort went into running the G8 protests last
week, consider this for an operation...
In dry heat, every day for 17 days 12,000 men, women and children
marched sixteen kilometres, occupied land and camped on it. Like
a giant festival on the move every day, it was an epic of eight
months planning. Each marcher had with them a knife and fork, four
rolls of toilet paper, a water bottle, a straw hat, a roll-up mattress,
first aid, MST caps and t-shirts and a bucket to wash with. They
were also given a rucksack, a plastic rain cover, a card for their
name and state, pen, notebook, a book on agrarian reform written
by MST groups, and a transistor radio.
Every day began with a wake-up at around 4.30am to pack, get into
groups and form three lines stretching over 4 km along the BR-060
motorway. The march would set off before dawn, joined by two sound
systems, six ambulances and fifteen water trucks, and arrive four
or five hours later at the campsite. The sound system truck, a carnival-style
trio electrico was large, loud and transmitted a radio
signal along the route for the walking-with-headphones masses. They
gave information and, most of the time, just mucked about jammin
on the roof.
Meanwhile another 350-strong team would pack up the entire camp,
and drive it in thirty one trucks and eight buses to the next site.
There they would find a farm, cut down the wire fences, smash down
the wooden poles with the buses and drive in en masse. Then the
site would be sketched out on paper and then re-constructed entirely
before the marchers arrived around 10am. Kitchens were set up at
two points along the route. A team of 420 cooks - a group from each
state - would rise at 3.30am and start preparing 24,000 meals a
day with rice, beans, vegetables and a little meat brought from
MST encampments. The hot food would then be packed into individual
metal trays and driven to and back from the current campsite twice
After showering, washing clothes and having lunch came the study
hours; from 3-5pm invited speakers would give a lecture through
the radio headsets and groups would then debate issues such as the
16-point demands of the march. At the same time, two teams of thirty
negotiators would take it in turns to get in a bus to Brasilia and
spend all day going from ministry to ministry (28 meetings in all)
hammering out their demands, armed with the pressure the march was
bringing to bear. And then there were the teams for health, childcare,
theatre, finances, security (by the MST themselves of course), transport,
general secretary, tents, toilets and the press.
Nightfall was music from every corner of Brazil around countless
fires fueled by cachaca, beer and, as half were under-25s, plenty
of trying to shag people from other states. By 10pm practically
the whole site was asleep.
Vocab: Terra = land.
Crap Arrests of the Week
...for hugging a fairy!
A Clown-clad activist has been arrested and charged after hugging
a person dressed as fairy during the G8 protests in Scotland. The
fairy was in the process of being arrested at the Boogie on
the Bridge event when the Strathclyde police, keen on nipping
any clown/fairy cross-breeding in the bud (imagine the offspring!),
charged the clown with obstructing police business and attempting
to free a prisoner.
WHATS THE HULLA-BA-LULA?
Government is like feijao (beans). You have to apply pressure
for it to cook. - Popular Brazilian phrase.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was a former metalworker who led
a huge wave of strikes against the military dictatorship in 1978.
In 1980 he helped form the Workers Party. The MST was formed
four years later and the two are now the biggest political party
and biggest social movement in South America. When Lula became the
first working class President of Brazil in 2002 there were big hopes
that change would come fast but this was overly optimistic. The
Workers Party said they supported the march - and the MST
say that Lula is still an ally, although the movement is independent
from any political party. So whats going on? SchNEWS spoke
to Gilmar Mauro, the national coordinator of the MST to find out:
Lulas government came good on all contracts with financial
capital but not with the MST and Brazilian society as promised in
his election campaign. Lulas government is different. It respects
social movements and doesnt criminalise the MST, but yet has
settled less landless families than the last one. It has been subsidising
big agribusiness but it wont release funds for agrarian reform.
We are seeing a Lula who is completely different from the one who
was a candidate (whod have thought it? - ed).
There is a lack of political will and capacity to confront the big
landowners in our country. Its a timid government which is
hostage to international finance. If the government continues like
this the re-election of Lula in 2006 will be difficult and hell
have to make even bigger alliances with the right which will make
change even harder.
Our salvation is to pressure the government. The story of marches
by humanity is a rich one from ancient Egypt, to Gandhi and numerous
other indigenous marches. We understand the march as an action engaging
with society. Our challenge is to continue mobilising and struggling.
We have to mobilise society, I dont believe in change from
top to bottom. Change will only be sustainable from a historical
point of view if it is a process that our own people win. I dont
believe that well change Brazil because of one figure becoming
Brazil has 186 million people and is the fifth largest country
in the world. Less than one per cent of the people own 46-50
per cent of the land. It has the second worst distribution
of wealth in the world, second only to Sierra Leone, according
to the UN. There are 50 million people under the poverty line,
of which 30 million are malnourished.
The US is to set up its first official permanent military base
in South America with a provision for 16,000 soldiers by the end
of 2006. After an agreement signed on May 26 in the Paraguayan Congress,
soldiers will enjoy totally immunity and diplomatic status as they
get set to tackle drugs, corruption and terrrrrists.
Other nearby countries - Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela and
Uruguay - have lefty governments and werent interested in
The base, near Mariscal Estigarribia, just happens to be 700 km
from the biggest hydroelectric dam and the largest source of underground
freshwater in the world - stretching 1,200,000 square km under Brazil,
Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay
but the US of course have
their sights on this blue gold. The new agreement just
formalises the existing clandestine US presence in the region -
the base already has a runway for B-52 bombers and C-5 Galaxy personnel
carriers. According to local commentators, the US are seeking to
stop the convergence of social movements in the region and intend
to wage a low-intensity war against supposed terrorists in the Triple
Frontier area where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay converge.
For more info about MST see: www.mstbrazil.org
HIGHWAY TO SHELL
Live8 has come and gone and nothing has changed. St Bob
failed to end poverty by simpering and slobbering over Blairs
collar. But one multinational is determined to make a difference:
Enter Shell, capitalists with a conscience. Eager to establish a
level playing field between Europe and Africa, they have taken a
radical approach, and for the last few years they have been working
on a plan which is breathtaking in its simplicity: create global
equality by treating Irish communities as they would Africans
with total contempt!
The story started in 1996 when the Corrib oil field was discovered
by Enterprise Oil 70 km off the west coast of Ireland. Years of
court wrangles followed, with locals fighting Shells plans
to build a right next to their community. This pipeline is planned
to run over bogs to an inland refinery on land which residents describe
as wobbly as blancmange, and prone to landslides. Not
safe ground for a pipe which has a burn radius of half
a mile threatening a nearby school and pub. And these pipes
do go off like in August 2000 when a gas pipeline exploded
in New Mexico killing twelve, and last year when another in Belgium
blew up killing fifteen.
Now five locals from Roscommon have been jailed indefinitely for
refusing to allow access to their land. They were jailed on 29th
June for contempt of court and have been told they will remain there
until they have purged their contempt. The parallels
with Shells infamous human rights abuses of the Ogoni tribespeople
in Nigeria have led some to dub the prisoners the Bogoni.
Imprisonment of the Roscommon Five has sparked protests
across Ireland, including a march of 3000 in Belmullet and pickets
of Shells petrol forecourts . Blockades have stopped work
starting at the proposed refinery site, and some workers have downed
tools. A security guard who resigned said: I didnt agree
with the company being able to send critics to jail because they
got in its way.
Despite being guinea pigs for Shells dangerous cost-cutting,
locals will gain little from the fabulous wealth being sucked out
of their territorial waters. Campaigners are demanding an inquiry
into the shonky deals by bent politicians which signed away royalties
to the oilfields reckoned to be £9 - 17billion worth
of gas with super low tax rates.
A camp has been set up near the blockade which welcomes
people, plus money and resources to run it. Call 086 3201612/086
1682416 or visit www.corribsos.com
* Send letters of support to the prisoners Willie Corduff,
Philip McGrath, Brendan Philbin, Vincent McGrath and Michael OSuighin
all at Cloverhill prison, Clondalkin, Dublin 22.
* 15,000 Southern Oil Company workers from the General Union
of Oil Employees Iraqs largest independent union
had a 24-hour strike last Sunday stopping most oil exports from
the south of Iraq. They are demanding higher wages and the removal
of Saddams old henchmen from the Ministry of Oil. www.basraoilunion.org
* Life in the Amazon Two independent filmmakers
speak of their journey to the Amazon rainforest to investigate the
current oil boom and the effects it has had on people and environment.
This Friday (22) Sanctuary Cafe, Hove (23)Worthing Labour Hall,
Lyndhurst Rd. 7pm (25) West Chiltington Village Hall, 7pm email@example.com
SEEING RED OVER THE GAS BILL
British Gas, along with the Spanish company Repsol and French
company Total, has formally initiated legal proceedings that
could end up with Bolivia being taken to international court in
January 2006. Their aim is to secure changes to the hydrocarbons
law passed by Congress in May. They claim that the very modest changes
in the law are equivalent to expropriation which is
forbidden without substantial compensation under the various Bilateral
Investment Treaties signed with France, Spain and the UK.
Their objections havent been publicly articulated since the
passing of the law. However in a leaked letter, British Gas stated:
BG invested in Bolivia on the basis of mutual commitments
supported by a framework which guaranteed a stable legal environment
for foreign investors
The new Hydrocarbons law has radically
changed that framework and BG
are in dialogue with the government
to discuss ways in which the differences may be addresses since
we expect Bolivia to respect the commitments it made to us:
In other words, we are not prepared to accept changes to our contracts,
even if many of the original contracts have been declared illegal
due to the fact they werent approved by Congress. Even if
the new law is democratically supported, we will push for the government
to back down.
It is thought that they object both to the rise in taxes, and the
change in the law which means that oil and gas resources now are
the property of the State at the point of extraction.
Previously, gas and oil only legally belonged to the State whilst
it remained in the ground, becoming the property of the companies
as soon as extracted. Whilst the new law doesnt in practice
mean any change to the multinationals control of the transport
and sale of gas and oil, it does allow the possibility that the
State could exert more control in the future.
This in fact will be vital if the gas and oil reserves are to truly
benefit Bolivia, but it is something the companies are determined
Bolivia is in a difficult position because during the 1990s it
signed highly unfavourable investment treaties that invariably prioritise
multinationals rights to profit over the Governments right
to assert sovereignty over its own resources. A fight is on the
cards, and Bolivia is unlikely to win unless it has massive international
Fortunately it has been shown that international solidarity can
force companies to back down. Whilst keen to secure changes to the
law for their benefit, multinational companies also can not afford
huge amounts of bad publicity. In Nov. 2001, Bechtel, the privatised
US water company that had been kicked out of Cochabamba by a popular
uprising, filed a demand of $25 million against Bolivia at the International
Center for Investment Settlement Disputes, however a major global
campaign eventually forced Bechtel to back down.
Like many companies, British Gas in recent years has been keen
to emphasise its corporate social responsibility. Yet despite all
the rhetoric, they are trying to force the poorest country in South
America to reverse modest changes to a hydrocarbons law which would
increase resources to tackle poverty. They are trying to overturn
a democratically-passed law to ensure their profits, which in 2004
increased by 22% to £1522 million.
In Oct 2003, more than 60 people lost their lives in demonstrations
calling for Bolivia to regain control of its vast natural resources
which for centuries have been extracted and exported with little
benefit for the vast majority of Bolivians. In May and June this
year, hundreds of thousands took to the streets calling for the
re-nationalization of gas.
British Gass legal action is an action against the Bolivian
people. The Bolivians need to democratically decide how the second
largest reserves in Latin America should be used to tackle the huge
levels of poverty and inequality in the country. Their decisions
should not be confined by the actions of multinationals whose only
consideration is profit. Our solidarity with Bolivians and our opposition
to the legal actions of the companies could be crucial in the fight
for a more just Bolivia.
British Airways boss Rod Eddington got a taste of how it
sounds being next to an airport runway last Tuesday morning (19th
) at 5am when a sound system blasting loud aircraft noises was set
up outside his £2.5million country house in Berkshire. This
was courtesy of protesters dressed in pyjamas who paid Rod a visit
the same day as the BA Annual General Meeting to make him rethink
plans for expansion of Heathrow and Stansted airports. It was Rods
last AGM at BA as he is about to become a Transport Adviser to the
Government, and John Stewart from anti-noise group Hacan ClearSkies
said, Residents under the flight path wanted to say farewell
to Rod Eddington by giving him a taste of his own medicine. The
majority of night flights using Heathrow are operated by British
Airways or one of its subsidiary companies. And BA is amongst the
strongest supporters of night flights. For more info call
John Stewart on 07957 385650 or see www.hacan.org.uk
Two prisoners nicked during the G8 protests are being held on
remand till their court cases open in August. Please write letters
of support to David Boudon, 92018, HM Prison Barlinnie, Glasgow,
G33 2QX and John Mackie, 18769, HM Prison Edinburgh, 33 Stenhouse
Road, Edinburgh, EH11 3LN
SchNEWS in Brief
- Mad Pride Party this Saturday (23rd) - bring picnics
and insanity to this autonomous gathering in celebration of mad
culture during mad pride month, with live bands, ceilidh and find
your marbles competition! 1pm onwards Queens Park, Brighton
- Uzbekistan and British Foreign Policy in Central Asia
A free talk and discussion with Craig Murray, Former British ambassador
to Uzbekistan. Thursday (28th) 7.30pm Hanover Room, Brighthelm,
North Road Brighton
- Brighton Dissent! meeting. Planning for post-G8 events.
Cowley Club, Tues (26th) 6pm
- Dissent! Gathering - A chance to evaluate the G8 mobilisation
and discuss the future. South Wales, 6-7th Aug. see www.dissent.org.uk
Five teams have been forced to pull out of the Homeless World Cup
in Edinburgh after several players were refused entry into the UK.
The Foreign Office said this was because several of the players
from the countries concerned Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Burundi
and Cameroon had said that they were unable to pay their
expenses whilst in Edinburgh. Bizarrely the Foreign Office seems
surprised by this fact. Maybe they have forgotten that Africa is
one of the most deprived areas in the world. G8 was a whole 12 days
ago after all.
Jazelle Kebakile, marketing co-ordinator for the Big Issue magazine,
said in the Cape Times, It is quite ironic that this is the
same country where recently the worlds richest nations met
to discuss ways to eradicate world poverty. Indeed they did.
In a 5 star hotel where a suite can put you back a mere £1,800
a night (breakfast included). The cup will now involve 27 teams
- see your local Ladbrokes for betting details.
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