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Right Confronts Lula as Movements Smolder
T he murder in Rio de Janeiro of Dorothy Stang, a 73-year-old U.S. nun who helped peasants engage in sustainable agriculture in the Amazonian rain forest, comes as oligarchic interests and the parliamentary right are on a political offensive against the government of Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva. This takes place as fissures are opening up within Lula’s governing Workers Party while social organizations are mobilizing to demand the implementation of reforms Lula aligned himself with before he became president.
“This is a low-point of Lula’s presidency,” says Marcos Arruda of PACS, a political and social research institute based in Rio de Janeiro. “There is no excuse for his failure to implement major social reforms, especially land redistribution, as he continues to follow the neo-liberal recipes dictated by the International Monetary Fund and Washington.” The government has maintained budget surpluses of 4 percent or more each of his 2 years in office to pay off international debts. The IMF alone has received over $40 billion in interest and principal repayments under Lula on a loan package of $58 billion initiated in 1998.
Dorothy’s assassination reflects the continued assault by landed
and logging interests on those who stand in the way of their plundering
of the Amazon. Stang, a naturalized Brazilian citizen, worked in
the Amazonian state of Para with 600 families involved in cultivating
native fruits and vegetables while tending dairy cattle that feed
on local forage. During the past year in Para alone more than 20
people have been murdered in land disputes.
Lula did respond dramatically to Stang’s assassination. He established a cabinet level task force, set aside two huge preservation parks, declared that large “land usurpers” in the Amazon would not be tolerated anymore, and sent over 2,000 federal police to pursue the assassins and their backers.
While this scene was unfolding, an upheaval took place in the elections for the president of the lower house of the Brazilian Congress. In the previous two years Lula’s Worker’s Party had secured the post by pasting together a coalition of parties. This year, however, the Worker’s Party was deeply divided between those backing Lula and those who were fed up with the slow pace of social reforms. As a result the right wing, along with the centrist parties, maneuvered to put their own candidate in the presidency, Severino Cavalcantia. He is known as “the king of the lower clergy” because of his alignment with right-wing oligarchic and religious interests. One of his first actions was to increase congressional salaries and extend vacation times.
This takeover comes as a campaign is taking place to roll back even the limited reforms of Lula’s early years. A few paltry taxes were levied on the rich and a modest—some would say “very meager”—anti-hunger program was launched. Headlines in the right wing-dominated press now scream about the high taxes that Brazilians supposedly pay while proclaiming that the Brazilian government, unlike the rest of the world, is not in lockstep with neo-liberalism by cutting back on “wasteful” and “corrupt” federal spending programs.
Within the Workers Party, the dissidents are divided. A limited group is opting to abandon the party and calling for the formation of a new political organization. Most believe a struggle should be waged within the party to reclaim its historic agenda of fighting for the poor, the workers, and the dispossessed.
The largest social organization in Brazil, the Landless Workers Movement, with strong links to the Workers Party going back to the 1980s, is following the second strategy. It has not broken with Lula, but is engaged in a process of mobilization from below. At present over 200,000 landless people are camped out along the major highways in Brazil, demanding access to idle lands. Francisco Meneses, who sits on the National Council on Nutrition and Food Security, proclaims: “If Brazil really wants to deal with hunger, the best solution is to undertake an accelerated agrarian reform program. The landless movement has very effective approaches that draw on past agrarian reform experiences from Latin America and the world in order to carry out sustainable development.”
The Landless Workers Movement is calling for an “April Offensive.” Starting in mid-month landless people and their sympathizers from divergent parts of the country will launch a massive march on the capital of Brazilia.
Marcos Arruda, a friend of Lula’s since the 1970s, who numbers among the dissidents fighting within the Workers Party, says: “We can’t give up to the opportunists surrounding Lula who are only interested in power. They are cutting deals just like any other traditional party in Brazil. A really visionary and sustainable agrarian reform program can transform the country in memory of Sister Dorothy and the other martyrs. There is no excuse for our party and country to be aligned with the same power brokers who are traumatizing the world with conflict, repression, and economic policies that ravage the earth.”
Roger Burbach is the director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) and a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.