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More Land Takeovers in Brazil (17/4/1999)

Bail-Out is an Environmental Time Bomb (29/4/1999)

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12 May1999

ACTION ALERT: World Bank Project will Subvert Brazilian Constitutional Land Reform

Five million families of landless workers in Brazil are entitled to land under the existing land reform measures of the Brazilian constitution.

Through a popular movement known as the MST (Movimento de Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra -- Movement of Rural Landless Workers) over 200,000 families have organized and occupied idle land, receiving legal ownership and subsidized government loans. The Brazilian government and the wealthy land owners are not happy about this!

The World Bank plans to provide $1 billion to create a "land bank" (Banco da Terra) that, while claiming to support land reform, actually subverts it. The terms of the WB-sponsored plan are far worse for those receiving the land and offer a windfall for large estate owners.

In an attempt to dismantle successful resistance, the World Bank and Brazilian government are offering up this alternative mechanism. They are offering $1 billion and are beginning with a pilot project called Cedula da Terra. They hope to draw in landless families, pay cash to large landowners and then strap the families with high credit terms and no subsidies to fund their productive activies (seeds, farm equipment, etc.) They reward the landowners and penalize the poor.

The MST, the Workers Party and others in Brazil are asking U.S. groups for support.

What You Can Do:

Write letter to WB President James Wolfensohn demanding that the inspection panel judiciously inspect the Cedula da Terra pilot project and stop this subversion of the Brazilian constitutional land reform.

Fill out the sample letter on our web page ( to automatically send a fax to World Bank President James Wolfensohn.

Sample Letter

James Wolfensohn
President, The World Bank
1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433

Dear Mr. Wolfensohn,

We are extremely concerned about the impact that the World Bank's project "Cedula da Terra" will have on the living conditions of landless rural workers in Brazil. It is fundamental to the success of such projects to include the participation of affected people and organizations in the design of the project.

The Brazilian farm workers were never consulted about the creation of the Cedula da Terra project. The negotiations only included World Bank representatives and the Brazilian government. As a result, we believe the project will be extremely prejudicial to the agrarian reform process in Brazil. It does not seem that it was designed to create the "World Free of Poverty" that the World Bank claims to promote.

The Cedula da Terra project relieves the Brazilian government from its responsibility to implement massive agrarian reform. At the same time, it replaces the current mechanisms that landless farmers have to acquire land, hurting the organizing efforts of these workers in their struggle for democracy. The conditions offered by the World Bank -- such as high interest rates -- will make it impossible for landless farmers to pay back their loans. As a consequence, these farmers will lose their land.

In reality, the program will only benefit the large landowners, especially the ones who do not contribute to improving social conditions in the countryside--those who do not protect the environment, who use their land for speculative purposes instead of production, and who do not respect labor rights. In sum, the ones who do not fulfill their social function as established by the Brazilian Constitution.

If the World Bank is concerned with the welfare of low-income Brazilians and wants to promote sustainable development in that country, it should conduct an evaluation of the project, as recommended by its Inspection Panel and the most important farm workers organizations in Brazil.

In solidarity with Brazilian landless farmers, we fully support the implementation of the agrarian reform project as mandated by the Brazilian Constitution as a way to promote sustainable development and to improve living conditions in that country.

We ask the World Bank to suspend the "Cedula da Terra" project and allow for the Inspection Panel to evaluate its impact. We believe the project contradicts the regulations imposed by Brazilian law and does not allow for the complete realization of an effective agrarian reform in Brazil.


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