Miguel Carter
Broken Promise
The Land Reform Debacle under the PT Governments
The chapters in this volume have dealt with the past, yet also presage the
future. In them, murmurings of a great betrayal have been made. And if not a
betrayal, at the very least, a striking failure on the part of the governments led
by the Workers Party (pt) to live up to the party’s historic promise of agrarian
A study I prepared found many signs that corroborate this interpretation.1
This chapter is not the place to examine these issues at length. Rather, it will
provide a general contour of the evidence on hand, then set the findings in con-
text and briefly evaluate their impact on Brazil’s Landless Rural Workers Move-
ment (mst). In closing, I will draw out two paradoxes that emerge from this
discussion and weigh on the future of Brazil’s democracy, its peasantry, and the
ecological fragility of our planet.
The Evidence
A review of the historical facts related to the pt’s rural policies under the gov-
ernments of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff go a long way in cor-
roborating the concerns raised throughout this volume. This includes a succinct
assessment of land reform activity, the stocks of land available for redistribu-
tion and their potential beneficiaries, and the state’s manifold relations, under
the pt, with the nation’s agrarian and corporate elite.
Sharp Decline in Land Redistribution
The evidence on this matter is hard to quibble with. As figure E.1 shows,
land reform activity increased under Lula’s first term, but experienced a sig-
nificant drop under his second term. In turn, by 2012, Dilma’s administration
had benefited fewer families through land distribution than any other Brazil-
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