Tuesday, May 03, 2005

BRAZIL:Two-Week March by Landless Protesters

The massive march that set out on May Day has been organised by the Landless Workers Movement (MST) to protest the government's economic policies, which are an obstacle to agrarian reform, the activists say.

Goiania, the capital of the state of Gois and located 210 km from Brasilia, will be the starting point for the 12,722 marchers. All of them will be wearing badges to identify them as participants in the protest, to "prevent infiltration," noted Joao Pedro Stdile, an MST national coordinator.

The goal of the march is "to promote debate and create awareness of the need for agrarian reform," Stdile told a press conference on Thursday.

The MST leader added that land reform is currently moving forward at a "snail's pace," despite the "people's government" of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former trade union leader.

Lula, leader of the leftist Workers Party (PT) and a long-time ally of the campesino (peasant worker) movement, promised to provide land to 430,000 families during the four years of his administration, which began on Jan. 1, 2003.

The Brazilian government announced that it had settled 81,000 families on land of their own last year, but in fact the total was just 35,000, since the others were cases where families were given plots of land to replace other, substandard ones previously offered, which they had refused to accept.

Stdile said this "enigma" of a government that is sympathetic to the plight of landless campesinos, yet does not manage to provide them with land to work, is the result of three obstacles: a state structure organised to respond solely to the wealthy; the influence of agribusiness, "a modern-day version of colonial plantations"; and economic policies that concentrate wealth.

Unless there is a change to the current economic policy of high interest rates, fiscal adjustment and priority put on the export sector, "there will be no agrarian reform," which is why the target of the protest march is the economic policy adopted by previous administrations and maintained by Lula, said Stdile, who has a degree in Economics.


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