Brazil: Why land reform makes sense for Dilma Rousseff

Source: Guardian Unlimited

Just days after Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was inaugurated on new year’s day, thousands of activists from the Landless Farmers Movement (MST) took over three expanses of land and various government buildings, demanding the new president speed up the rate of land redistribution to the country’s landless farmers.

“At the beginning of this new political era in our country, our occupations are meant to publicly demand the carrying out of land reform,” Joana Tavares, a spokeswoman for the MST, explained in a statement. “The old agrarian structures are still alive in our country, and with them the inequality, injustice and violence they perpetrate.”

The MST began over 25 years ago, using direct action to occupy unused land and work it cooperatively for survival. Operating under the slogan “Occupy, Resist, Produce”, the MST has taken over some 35m acres, settling approximately 370,000 families. In spite of these advances, roughly half of the usable land in the country remains in the hands of just 1% of the population. According to Brazilian law, the government can expropriate unused land and give it to the landless farmers. This law has empowered landless farmers to occupy land, and then fight for legal recognition for their right to it.

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