Landless Workers Movement marches to Brasilia in protest

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Brasilia, Brazil — Thousands of members of the Brazilian Landless Workers' Movement (MST) completed their march to Brasilia on Tuesday, having started their 238 km journey on May 1. They demanded President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva meet land reform promises, and protested against the U.S. government and President George W. Bush.

The Brazilian government news agency Agencia Brasil reported that about 12,000 members of MST protested in front of the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia. The group gathered garbage and burnt with it an American flag. According to Rosana Fernandes, an MST representative, they were protesting against American culture, politics and corporations.

Representatives of MST also met with Brazilian President Lula da Silva. According to Agencia Brasil, they presented four demands to the government: the restructuring of the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra), the execution of the National Plan for Agrarian Reform announced in 2003, the creation of a special line of credit, and changes in the definition of unproductive land for expropriation. MST claims that they reached an agreement with Lula, and that he agreed to spend about half, or 700 million reais ($282 million USD), of the land reform budget he froze in 2005. Agrarian Reform Minister Miguel Rossetto denied that a deal had already been made, but said that the meeting had been positive and a proposal would be offered to the MST on Wednesday.

During the protests some members of MST conflicted with police forces in Brasilia. According to the police, 20 policemen were badly injured and were hospitalized. Also according to the police, the incident started after some MST members attacked a police car near the Palace of Justice. A police officer that left the car to talk to the crowd was assaulted with punches and kicks. The mounted police came to help the trapped officers and dispersed the crowd. MST reported 32 of their members injured in the incident, although independent news sources report around 20.

The MST march to Brasilia was organized by Via Campesina, an international organization in support of rural worker's rights and sustainable agriculture.

The MST's leader João Pedro Stedile said that the MST must return home with their batteries recharged and increase the occupation of land in Brazil. [1]