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Date: Thu, 15 May 97 13:45:28 CDT
From: sejup@ax.apc.org
Subject: Brazil: Low spending on agrarian reform

NEWS FROM BRAZIL supplied by SEJUP (Servico Brasileiro de Justica e Paz).
Number 272, May 14, 1997.

Low spending on agrarian reform

SEJUP, News from Brazil, No.272, 14 May 1997

Figures outlining government spending released in recent days show that there is a wide gap between official discourse and practice in the area of agrarian reform. The figures reveal that by the end of March the government had spent only 4% of the funds available for agrarian reform during 1997.

The Ministry of Land Policy has a total of US $2.25 billion available for land reform during 1997. During the first three months of this year it spent approximately US $94 million. INCRA (the government land agency) claims that spending is usually lower at the beginning of the year and increases later on. Deputy Paulo Bernardo of the Workers' Party who published the figures of the government's agrarian reform spending commented if what has been spent so far were normal, the President would not have been embarrassed by the landless. Deputy Bernardo was referring to an incident which happened during the meeting of President Cardoso with the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) on April 18 when he referred to a program called Luminar in favor of agrarian reform which he allegded was in progress. The MST publically reminded him that the program exists only on paper. Nor is under- spending a feature of 1997. At the end of last year INCRA returned US $90 million to central government funds which it had not spent on agrarian reform projects. It alleged that the funds had been released too late to be utilized during 1996. This amount would be sufficient to settle 2500 families in agrarian reform projects.

Rural violence continues.

72 year old rural landless worker Antonio Alves da Silva was assassinated on April 27 last by a hired gun-man on the Igarima ranch in the municipality of Sitio do Mato, State of Bahia. INCRA was studying the possibility of exappropriating the ranch (much of which is unused) at the time of the assassination. The ranch has been in the center of a dispute between the present owner and various families who were expelled from the area when it was bought by Angelo Calmon de Sa ten years ago. Three months ago, 80 landless families occupied a part of the ranch. The assassinated man was the local leader of the MST.

Also on April 27, security worker Jose Lopes de Oliveira (known as Django) was assassinated in a conflict with landless families on the Borborema ranch, municipality of Tamarana, State of Parana. The landless families claim that on the day before his death he had threatened and opened fire on them. In the State of Alagoas, rural trade union leader Francisco Souza da Silva was assassinated on March 04 in Atalaia. His daughter, Adriana Maria Santana, sustained bullet wounds to the head in the same incident.