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Brazilian Dialogue

April 28

Starry-eyed folk approach me frequently to relate some Brazil agriculture story they've just seen on TV or read in the Western Producer or heard on the radio, in the coffee shop or even in church!

"There's this big frontier, untilled. Somebody from America or Europe buys up the land, huge chunks of land, and then comes in with rows of tractors all lined up followed by air seeders. Wow! Can you just do that?" Of course you can, if you have enough capital, and we've created a world in which capital now reigns supreme. Two states, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul (Brazil's "far west") are particular targets for such exploitation.

Just as John A. MacDonald did with Canada's "far west," Brazil has declared all lands without title to be public domain. And so a large chunk of capital changes hands, a large chunk of land follows suit, and in come the tractors and air seeders seeding soybeans. And we all stand in awe.

But there have been Indians living on these lands since time immemorial. And, more recently, squatters, refugees from the landlessness in the more settle parts of Brazil.

Where shall they go? But that is of no concern to mega-capital, which thinks of people as commodities, not as human beings with inherent dignity and rights.

Our media don't ask about these dispossessed. And we, who unquestioningly soak up what the media feeds us, don't come to this question either. Pedro Casaldaliga, a bishop for 30 years in Mato Grosso, said many years ago when mega-ranching took over huge tracts in his diocese displacing Indians and squatters, "Soon I will be bishop only of cattle." Today any bishop in these two states could add, "and of tractors and air seeders."

Yes, a well-to-do Canadian farmer could drive through such areas in the future and come back to regale us with "Soybeans, far as you can see. Nothing but soybeans. Mile after mile. Not a tree on the hills. Wow!" But the land is empty, not only of trees but also of human beings. This is the kind of monoculture mega-capital foisted on the Northeast of Brazil since the coming of the white race. Mile after mile of sugar cane. Not a tree. Human beings only in time of planting or harvest brought in by the hundreds in huge cattle trucks.

We saw a break from the endless cane in January. Half of the municipality of Branquinha (near Uniao dos Palmares) was sold by a consortium of city owners to the government, which then settled several hundred families on this expropriated land.

And what does it look like? Suddenly the endless cane breaks: here are mini-forests, newly planted, orchards, fields of beans and corn, gardens, fishponds, cows, pigs, chickens, neat little houses and people. People in this empty land!

Creation according to the mind of God is something that should get the attention of the media. The monocultures featured instead are the children of Mammon.

Al Gerwing