Célia em Movimento

an E-CHANGER volunteer for 7 years, celia worked until june 2007 for the 'gender sector' of the MST/BA - the rural landless workers movement in the northeastern brazilian state of bahia. from then until june 2010 she worked at the international secretariat of the world march of women in são paulo. although she is no longer a volunteer, she still works in brazil with the WMW and E-CHANGER and will therefore continue to share her professional and personal experiences... enjoy!

17 April 2007

Thousands of Brazilian Peasants Occupy Farms
By Todd Benson, 11th April 2007, Reuters Reports

SAO PAULO, April 10 (Reuters) - Thousands of peasants have occupied four farms and demonstrated in six states as part of a wave of protests to push for land reform in Latin America's largest country, a spokesman for the group said on Tuesday.

The protesters belong to the Landless Peasants' Movement, or MST, a nationwide group that routinely occupies large plantations to lobby the government to grant plots of land and financial aid to poor family farmers.

The latest campaign, which began last week and is known as "Red April," has included largely peaceful demonstrations by landless rural workers.

One occupation began on Sunday in Itapetininga in the interior of Sao Paulo state, where peasants set up camp on land owned by Suzano Bahia Sul Papel e Celulose, one of Latin America's biggest pulp and paper producers.

The MST said it chose the target to protest the expansion of eucalyptus plantations at the expense of food crops and to push for agrarian reform in Sao Paulo, an agricultural powerhouse state where farming is dominated by large agribusiness companies.

“It's time for the government to accelerate agrarian reform," said Joaquim da Silva, an MST spokesman. "We're going to keep invading properties until they do so.”

Suzano, which has previously been the target of MST occupations, said in a statement that it had taken legal action to have the protesters evicted.

Some 300 families also occupied a 45,000-hectare (111,000-acre) ranch in the northern state of Maranhao on Tuesday, the MST said in a statement. They were later joined by 450 other squatter families hoping the government will expropriate and redistribute the land.

In Pernambuco in northeastern Brazil, some 400 families occupied two idle farms and demanded the permanent settlement of 12,000 landless families in the state.

In the state of Rio Grande do Sul, 300 MST militants occupied the public works office in the state capital Porto Alegre demanding road improvements, rubbish collection and school transport in four settlements, MST activist Emerson Giacomelli said.

Some 5,000 MST militants started a 110-kilometer (63-mile) march in Bahia from Feira de Santana to the state capital Salvador demanding the acceleration of land reform. [Have a look at the photo album 'MST/Bahia's State March (April 2007)' on the right...]

In the northern state of Piaui, activists occupied the state governor's palace in Teresina to press demands for rural development and respect of workers' rights.

MST protesters are usually evicted after a few weeks, then pick a new target. In some cases they have remained as occupiers on abandoned farms no longer used by their owners.

Land squabbles have long been common in Brazil, which is slightly larger than the continental United States. Millions of Brazilians live in poverty but 1 percent of the population owns almost half of all arable land, according to official data.

The disputes frequently turn violent, especially in remote regions of the Amazon rain forest. At least 1,690 violent clashes over land took place in Brazil last year, according to a recent report by 30 local human rights groups.

The MST has traditionally occupied unproductive land tracts. But in recent years it has also targeted plantations owned by large agribusiness interests, a shift that has strained its relations with the left-leaning government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Article originally available at:
http://www.reuters.com/article/companyNewsAndPR/idUSN1033899620070411

Source: Updates from Brazil's Landless Workers Movement: Friends of the MST
http://www.mstbrazil.org/?q=reutersonmstredapril2007

PS. Click on the photo album on the right to see photos that I took at the opening ceremony and on the 1st day of the 110km march from Feira de Santana to Salvador (the capital of Bahia)
PPS. You can also see more informal photos from my fun birthday night out by clicking on the relevant photo album on the right...