Hope for Brazil’s Landless

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.

Most important of all, the MST has given peasants reason to
hope, turning hundreds of thousands from passive victims — they
were once referred to as ‘the marginalized’ and ‘the vagabonds’ —
into active members of society. ‘Now they are voting and holding
political offices,’ he says. ‘These people, along with millions of
others in Brazil’s newly flourishing social movements, are shaping
a democracy that is still recovering from years of military
dictatorship.’
Leif Utne

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Brazilian Agrarian Reform Represents Hope, not Danger

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