Ahead of his testimony, the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement leader said he regrets the outcome of the commission so far
On August 15, the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) investigating the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) will receive João Pedro Stedile, founder and national leader of the Movement, who will give a testimony to the federal deputies who are part of the commission.
In an interview with Brasil de Fato, Stedile, who was summoned by the deputies to testify, said he will go to the CPI “without any concerns.”
“I will only speak on what I know, I am calm and serene in defending the interests of agrarian reform and the Brazilian people,” he said.
Stedile’s testimony is expected to be the culmination of the commission, which had its first session on May 23 this year. Three months later, the CPI, made up mostly of far-right parliamentarians, is trying to draw the attention of public opinion away from another CPI, which is investigating the coup acts of January 8 this year and from the investigations of corruption of people linked to the ex-president Jair Bolsonaro.
On August 8, the government’s base of support in parliament negotiated with the centrist parties (called centrão) to exchange members of the CPI on the MST. This allowed them to have a majority in the commission which could undermine the strategy of the commission’s president and rapporteur, federal deputies Luciano Lorenzini Zucco and Ricardo Salles, both loyal opponents of the MST.
The exchanges involve the Brazil Union (União Brasil), the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), the People’s Party (PP) and the Republicans. The latter two may be favored by the government in an eventual cabinet shuffle that may take place at the beginning of September, and they could gain some ministries.
Stedile says he was disappointed with the commission’s work. “I expected the CPI to be a forum for debate on the agrarian problems of our country. Even though the commission’s composition included, as is expected, an extreme right-wing group, which obviously has a different view on the Brazilian agrarian issue than the left, we expected the deputies to be honest, to highlight the problems that Brazilian society has in rural areas.”
Check out the full interview:
Brasil de Fato: What do you expect from the testimony at the CPI?
João Pedro Stedile: I am going without any concerns, I will only speak on what I know. I am calm and serene in defending the interests of agrarian reform and the Brazilian people. I am very proud of that, we have been defending the interests of the people for forty years. We have nothing to lose.
The MST is a legitimate movement, which has always acted within the rules of the constitution and, more than legitimate, it is a necessary people’s movement, because in the history of humanity there has never been agrarian reform without social pressure from the organized landless people. This has happened all over the planet and it is the role of the MST to organize workers to fight for the land. As our dear Dom Pedro Casaldáliga said, “it is a good thing that the MST exists, because if it did not exist, we would have to reinvent it.”
BdF: In Brasília, many think that the parliamentarians of the extreme right bloc will push for a long testimony, to tire you out, with an aggressive discourse. Are you prepared?
JPS: It is important for society to realize that it is not by chance that in the 40 years of our existence, we have faced three CPIs against the MST precisely in the Lula (Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva) governments. Why didn’t they do that in the [Fernando Henrique Cardoso] or even Bolsonaro governments? Because they use these parliamentary instruments to try to prevent agrarian reform from acquiring the importance it has in progressive governments.
We are calm, because they keep investigating and can’t find anything. This CPI exists to frighten public officials, who are frightened by the existence of the CPI, by the possibility of being investigated, because the mere fact of being summoned makes them panic. People have their trajectories and are not necessarily prepared for this public trial when they go there.
These people are subjected to all kinds of humiliation, because the deputy becomes an inquisitor and can use all the prerogatives to intimidate, threaten and offend, as we have seen in these three months. The people who go there have to be very cold-blooded, because some extreme right-wing deputies abuse, abandon their civilized posture and seek to offend, to see if people react in an untimely manner and, with that, they can take some other measure that further damages the person testifying. I am prepared, five or seven hours are normal for us, our training courses last days, some last weeks, there are courses that last a month. It will not be a problem.
BdF: What is your analysis of the CPI so far?
JPS: I expected the CPI to be a forum for debate on the agrarian problems of our country. Even though the commission’s composition included, as is expected, an extreme right-wing group, which obviously has a different view on the Brazilian agrarian issue than the left, we expected the deputies to be honest, to highlight the problems that Brazilian society has in rural areas. Who is responsible for these problems? What are the solutions?
The MST is part of the reality in the countryside, we can criticize it or support it, but it exists, it is part of this reality and it proposes to face problems in the countryside and we present solutions, such as the proposal for popular agrarian reform, in which the landless people have access to the land, giving it a new social function, in which workers can produce food for the people. [We call for] a popular agrarian reform and not just peasant [agrarian reform], which would address only those who work on the land.
In these three months, we have heard none of this, because the extreme right-wing caucus, which does not even represent the interests of the rural caucus, has turned the CPI into a circus, with all kinds of stunts, to use social media to launch attacks, which haven’t even managed to go beyond the right-wing circles. We were quite surprised that the bourgeois press, or corporate press, behaved honestly and denounced this reductionism and manipulation by the right-wing deputies.
This article was translated and adapted from a piece originally published on Brasil de Fato.