Hope for Brazil's Landless

Brazil's agrarian reform movement is a reason for hope, not a danger

| October 6, 2003 Issue

Over the past decade, Brazil's Landless Peasants Movement (known in Portuguese as the MST) has moved more than 350,000 families onto idle farm lands claimed by others, and has put increasing pressure on leftist president Lula da Silva to pass agrarian reforms that would give the lands to the peasants. Meanwhile, large landowners and politicians in Brazil have threatened violent expulsions if the peasants do not leave. And Wall Street banks and the U.S. media have portrayed the movement as a threat to Brazil's creditworthiness and crucial agricultural exports, pressuring Lula to go against a movement he has long supported.

Angus Wright, of the Prairie Writers Circle, says Wall Street's fears are unfounded. "The MST has settled more than 1 million people on more than 20 million acres," he writes. "The settlers enjoy higher living standards, including in schools and health care. Not only are they eating better themselves, they are providing basic food to regional markets." In addition, Wright points out, the MST has abandoned chemical-intensive conventional agriculture, and officially adopted an "agro-ecological model," making it one of the world's largest promoters of organic farming techniques.

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