land to the growing numbers of landless people. But as Alston explains, “land reform efforts have consistently failed to reduce the levels of landownership concentration. Owners of latifundia have been politically powerful, and they have successfully resisted the expropriation of their lands” (32). The interests of large, wealthy landowners, and more recently corporate elites in Brazil and abroad, have always dominated land reform outcomes even when support for more equitable projects has seemed widespread across the rest of Brazil’s population.
As described above, a variety of movements and organizations have sprung up in response to this situation during the past several decades. One of the most publicized of these is the MST (Landless Worker’s Movement), an organization that got its start in the early 1980s in the far south of Brazil. The MST is very active in southern Pará today, but many smaller groups pioneered the same kind of work prior to the MST’s arrival in the Amazon in the late 1980s. These groups generally consisted of rural workers’ unions, and the CPT who supported them. Today, there are over 520 “assentamentos” in Pará, land settlements that began as encampments where people have occupied public or unused private land until being granted the right to legally use it. 15 of these were initiated by the MST; the rest were organized by rural workers’ unions and by FETRAF and FETAGRI, two federations for supporting and organizing agricultural workers in the region. While these numbers—and the livelihoods behind them—represent important successes in the movement for landless people’s rights, southern Pará and the states nearby it remain an area of many land conflicts that are only predicted to increase as more development projects enter the area. The southern Amazon region is seen as a major potential site for development projects in hydroelectric energy, cattle ranching, large-scale agriculture, and “reforestation” in the form of eucalyptus forests to be used for charcoal in iron mines. All of these represent threats to the existence of small-scale, diverse agricultural production, and to the livelihoods of individuals who practice this form of economic development (Wandeberg 2007).
This section organizes the responses from interviews into main sections that outline the primary questions answered and issues explained. All quotes in English are the author’s attempted word-for-word translations to Portuguese. Analysis and conclusions about this information follow in the next sections.
The Church’s progressive past
Interviews with the CPT leaders and the progressive Church leaders in Marabá echoed the same terms used in secondary sources: the Church had a commitment to a preferential option for the poor. The priest interviewed talked about having “saudades,” or longings, for the 1970s and 80s, and described it as a beautiful
time when the Church was directly at the side of the oppressed. CEBs at this time were a “grand instrument” of the Church, used as a location for religious ceremony, but also a place to talk about organizing to regain
rights. They were also, according to the Copserviços staff member, a network through which to learn what Sharp