Movimento dos Sem Terra (Landless Movement)
Movimento dos Sem Terra (Landless Movement)
LEADERS: Egydio Brunetto; Jose Rainha Jr.; Joao Pedro Stedile
USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: Brazil
Movimento dos Sem Terra (MST; Portuguese for Landless Movement) is a Leninist-Marxist Brazilian revolutionary movement, inspired and supported by the Catholic clergy, including several bishops. Their "Theology of Liberation," developed in the mid 1960s, provided the doctrinaire base for a christianized version of Communist theories as a political recipe for Latin American countries. In spite of the official condemnations by the late Pope John Paul II and his successor of this Marxist Catholicism, some Brazilian clergy continued to fully support, preach, and organize several revolutionary social movements in Brazil. Among some prominent clergy figures directly involved in the organization of MST since 1985 is the Dominican Friar Beto, one of the founders and mentors of PT, the Workers' Party, and of MST, who keeps close ties with Egydio Brunetto, Jose Rainha Jr., and Joao Pedro Stedile, the main leaders of MST.
Before MST was officially formed, several Catholic priests were already encouraging the population, in the mid 1970s and early 1980s, to invade rural properties "in the name of Christ," especially in the Brazilian states of Acre, Rondonia, Mato Grosso, Para, and Amazonas. Churches all over Brazil started regular meetings to divulge the Theology of Liberation, with religious radio programs, and local daily TV shows as their main propaganda tools, along with parochial pamphlets.
INCRA (National Institute for Agrarian Reform) was already applying a federal program of agrarian reform and colonization in the Amazonian regions and allocating federal land for rural workers, along with subsidized financial loans from the Bank of Amazon, providing agricultural implements and technical assistance to the new settlers. Most of those settlers originated from the more traditional rural areas of the south of the country, such as the states of Santa Catarina, Parana, and Sao Paulo, and some from the center of Brazil, such as the Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais, and Goias states. However, Catholic priests incited their congregations to invade these same new farms, especially those showing successful results; these actions often resulted in violence and deaths.
MST is the more recent result of KGB-backed infiltrations. In 1959, Mikhail Suslov ordered KGB agents abroad to infiltrate the Christian and Islamic religious organizations. The Soviet 631 Institute, written by Suslov, reads: "It is essential to increase the infiltration into churches and other religious organizations. We have already received protests from our comrades who believe to be a waste of time such work inside the Churches, and this is a deplorable attitude that cannot be tolerated. The Churches are influent and are involved in every step of life. Once installed inside the religious organizations, our men can deliver a valuable service to the Party."
The consequence of such methodic infiltration in the Catholic Church of Latin America led to the Theology of Liberation in 1968, officially approved by the CELAM (Latin American Episcopal Commission) in 1972. Pope John Paul II opened the III Latin American Episcopal Conference in Puebla City, Mexico in 1979, criticizing the adoption by the clergy of the Theology of Liberation as a tool aiming to replace the Christian faith with Marxism, therefore leading to the destruction of the Church.
With the end of the military dictatorship in Brazil in 1985, the MST was finally organized under the initial leadership of Rainha Jr. and Stedile, with Friar Beto's support and guidance. An extensive and well-coordinated offensive against farms and ranches took place immediately and rapidly spread from Para (on the north) to the state of Rio Grande do Sul (in the extreme south of Brazil). Between 1985 and 1989, armed clashes between MST activists, police, and farmers caused 640 deaths in the countryside.
The 1995 Forum of SaoPaulo, a Cuban-oriented meeting of the International Communist Movement annually held to discuss strategies for power taking in Latin America, took place in Montevideo, Uruguay. Representatives of the Brazilian political party known as PT (Workers' Party), MST leaders, and other Brazilian left-wing parties attended the meeting as well as the leaders of Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia(Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces; FARC) and of Peru's Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path; SL). FARC and Sendero Luminoso, besides being terrorist organizations, are known to be the largest operators of drug trafficking in South America. PT and MST leaders, after confiding with the FARC and Sendero Luminoso leaders, declared at the occasion that MST would act as the PT's armed branch in Brazil in order to create the necessary social upheaval to facilitate power-taking by the left. While PT political activism would try to ascend to power through democratic elections as representatives of the labor unions in the industrialized centers, MST would incite the rural population to start an armed revolution in the countryside. In spite of the gravity of such an announcement, the major sectors of the Brazilian press failed to take notice or to mention this fact to the public at that time.
In 1996, during a court-ordered eviction operation of MST activists from a farm in Eldorado dos Carajas, Para, police were met with resistance, and the outcome was nineteen deaths and fifty-one injured people. By the first months of 1998, more then 50,000 MST militants had already occupied, by force, more than 29,000 square miles of rural lands. Under the pretext of pressing authorities to speed up agrarian reform, MST also invaded and destroyed several police precincts, public buildings, banks, and even government offices. In April 2002, MST invaded the farm of the son of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the then-President of Brazil, looted the entire property, destroyed tractors and other implements, and killing the farm animals in the process. In mid 2003, the death toll of clashes between farmers and MST amounted to another 200 deaths, as well as the destruction of plantations, herds, public and private buildings, houses, and tractors, with several cases of abductions of farmers and public servants, murders, looting, extortions, and blackmail.
MST violence, and the mild and sluggish response on the part of judges and law enforcement authorities to its crimes, has led many farmers to buy weapons and to hire security guards to prevent invasions. Many farmers complain that they are forced to pay MST a toll in order to be allowed to transport their production out of their properties.
PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS
The main strategic force behind MST is the Brazilian Catholic Church, today virtually dominated by the Marxist wing of the clergy and their followers, including teachers and intellectuals. They act as the main force inside schools, universities, and the media, directing public opinion toward a sympathetic attitude to MST, shown as a social movement trying to help the poor improve their standard of living through the access to land.
- MST helps Jose Ignacio Lula da Silva (PT Party) be elected for the Presidency of Brazil.
- MST launched 110 invasions throughout Brazil.
- MST militias invaded 271 properties.
- At least forty MST-related incidents were reported between January and July, including new invasions, occupation of public buildings, and hostage takings.
The clergy uses the Theology of Liberation to encourage awareness among the poorest social segments, comprised of rural and bluecollar workers, regarding the social-economic forces responsible for their predicaments. The document recommends, among other tactics, that the religiosity of the masses should be used as a tool to revolutionize the fundaments of the Catholic Church through the formation of Ecclesiastical Base Communities and other parochial activities. The Theology of Liberation, officially born in 1968, should be taught to the masses, thereby changing the religious focus from salvation of the soul to the salvation of men from social injustice and inequalities. Social movements should be organized and implemented to fight against capitalism and the economic elites, blamed as the main oppressors of the poor.
The Theology of Liberation shifted the focus of religious preaching from metaphysical concern with the inner life of the individual and his relationship with God to that of political, economical, and social demands of the masses. Jesus, Mary, Moses, and other biblical personalities are presented by the Theology of Liberation as social revolutionaries and precursors of Communist ideologues such as Karl Marx, Mao, and Antonio Gramsci. Therefore, the real meaning of religious life should be the search for social justice and the promotion of social well-being through the redistribution of income and the destruction of privileged minorities. The "elites" are the enemy to be fought against by the masses, as well as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), transnational companies, the United States, etc. Two sectors crucial to such a revolution are the labor unions in the industrialized urban centers and the rural population in the countryside. In Brazil, the Theology of Liberation led priests to inspire and organize the founding of the PT Party and the "social movement" of MST.
The Marxist-Leninist approach adopted by MST and the Theology of Liberation preaches a radical socio-political change and power shift. In order to promote social justice and income distribution, a combination of armed conflict and social rioting is used to achieve political power. Therefore, its main objective is to take power through revolution. Its leadership is not comprised of true rural workers but by professional militants instructed by Marxist priests. MST alignment with FARC, Sendero Luminoso, and Fidel Castro's policies aiming to create a communist block in Latin America is openly stated. The propaganda power of the Catholic Church in the manipulation of the masses is well illustrated by Jorge Baptista Ribeiro, a former adept of Theology of Liberation, in his article of December 1988, published in the newspaper Ombro a Ombro. Ribeiro cited a comrade of the Marxist Catholicism who commented on how fun it was to manipulate the masses: "We laughed a lot after we preached, transmitting to the stupid masses the messages in favor of our cause, which like parrots they repeated…. Good examples of our smartness you can find in the biographies of Lula and many others."
The most effective propaganda tool used by MST is the association of clearly perceived real facts (poverty, illiteracy) with false or unilaterally selected factors in order to promote hatred against specific institutions and segments of society. In short, prejudice, mistrust, and hatred is fomented between social classes. This tactic consists of the perpetual victimization of one social segment while demonizing another, as well as the systematic denial in acknowledging the positive actions in favor of the first segment while accusing the second of being against social justice.
The growing number of rural property invasions incited by the Marxist clergy during the 1980s led farmers to organize their own union, the UDR, to defend their lands and rights, and to provide legal assistance to those affected. Therefore, UDR is systematically vilified by MST leadership and the clergy, as dangerous elitists eager to commit murder and intimidate MST militants.
Even sectors of the Catholic Church are presently discretely criticizing MST and comparing the agrarian reform in Brazil with that of President Mugabe's in Zimbabwe. In April 2005, the magazine Catolicismo reported that the MST leadership is embezzling money allocated by the federal government and by private donors to the settlements in Pernambuco and elsewhere. According to the same source, approximately $9 million were allocated by the government to two cooperatives (CONCRAB and ANCA) between 2003 and 2004, both administered by the MST leadership. A Congressional Investigation Committee has heard several witnesses among settlers, agriculture technicians, and members of MST who testified that their leadership is using these two cooperatives to funnel the money to other MST activities alien to their original goals.
In October 2004, Jose A. F. Rodrigues Neto, General of the Brazilian Army in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, alerted in an article that the MST has a great number of guerrilla training camps throughout Brazil, where militias are trained in terrorist techniques developed by FARC and Sendero Luminoso. He is not alone in his concerns about this issue. Several journalists and political scientists all agree that MST keeps a close relationship with the network of drug traffickers organized and commanded by FARC to finance communist movements in Latin America.
In the first half of 2005, the MST inaugurated a new school, built with $1.3 million donated by the Friends of MST from several countries. Egydio Brunetto, the national leader of MST said in the inauguration speech that: "The main objective of the school is to teach how to invade rural properties—whether productive or not—since the main goal of this school is to form trained contingent to occupy land." Stedile, also present at the ceremony, added: "This school is to take the power for the working class, so our comrades will be able to transform scientific knowledge in tools of liberation and not of exploitation."
Hutton, Joseph B. The Subverters. New York: Arlington House, 1972.