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Grassroots Land Reform in Brazil

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  • Tony Gosling
    Now It Is Time: the MST and Grassroots Land Reform in Brazil  http://www.commondreams.org/news2003/0806-01.htm OAKLAND, CA - August 5 - A new report based on
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 8, 2003
      Now It Is Time: the MST and Grassroots Land Reform in Brazil

      OAKLAND, CA - August 5 - A new report based on a just-released book by the
      think tank Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy shows how,
      in a country burdened with oppressive poverty, the landless workers
      movement--Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem-Terra (MST)--rose from the
      poorest of the poor to form the most important grassroots organization in
      Brazil--and indeed in all of Latin America.
      Saying "enough," to a history of landlessness and poverty, the MST, who
      have inspired articles in media from Time magazine to The Wall Street
      Journal, confronted persecution and assassination to take charge of their
      own destiny. By successfully occupying and farming idle land, the MST has
      forced the Brazilian government to award more than 20 million acres of
      agricultural land to over 350 thousand MST families since the movement's
      founding in 1984.
      "By occupying the idle land of wealthy absentee landlords, the MST have
      carved out livelihoods and vastly improved the quality of education and
      health care available to their families," said Professor Angus Wright who
      with Professor Wendy Wolford wrote the report. "They have achieved these
      gains by successfully challenging the institutions and some of the most
      powerful people of Brazil, a nation of 175 million people and one of the
      world's ten largest economies."
      According to the report, land grabbing by wealthy landholders has long
      stifled economic development and trapped millions in poverty. In response,
      Brazil enacted laws requiring that land "serve its social function" and the
      government promised redistribution to poor families. But these reforms were
      never enforced because of the tremendous power wealthy landholders held
      over the government.
      "Faced with an intransigent government fencing for the landlords, the rural
      landless decided the best way to achieve land reform is to occupy the
      land," said Wright. "This forced the government to act on its 'social
      function' principle and hand over the land to the rural workers. Now
      significant agrarian reform has begun and is spreading throughout Brazil."
      Through its work and its growth, the MST has seen its influence extend
      beyond the debate over land reform, gaining considerable political power
      and helping to elect the former labor leader Luis Inácio ("Lula") da Silva
      as President of Brazil. Yet the MST feel much work needs to be done, and
      see more equitable access to land as a first step toward a more just and
      egalitarian Brazilian society.
      To read the report, please visit:
      HTML Version or PDF Version
      For information on the full book, 'To Inherit the Earth: The Landless
      Movement and the Struggle for a New Brazil', click here.

      AUGUST 5, 2003
      6:27 PM

      CONTACT: Food First
      Nick Parker
      (510) 654-4400 ext. 229
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