Brazil, July 7, 2003 -- CropChoice news, 07/04/03, Reuters:
Brazilian peasants ended a two-week ranch invasion on
Friday saying they expected to win land rights after
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva threw his weight
behind land reform this week.
Vans and buses flying the red flag of the Landless
Workers Movement, or MST, streamed out of the ranch
25 miles west of Lula's palace.
"Lula said there was going to be agricultural
reform and this has encouraged government organizations
to take action," said MST lawyer Elmano Freitas.
He said activists were leaving the ranch with a promise
from Brazil's land reform agency they would be given
some of the land as it was public property.
Lula, Brazil's first working-class president, this
week donned an MST baseball cap as he met with leaders
of the radical movement and promised to speed up reforms
and raise funds to redistribute land to Brazil's poor.
His chief of staff described the 19-year-old MST, which
is inspired by the Mexican and Cuban revolutions, as
a legitimate and necessary force in Brazil's agrarian
The previous center-right government of Fernando Henrique
Cardoso tried to prevent MST invasions and stop members
taking land they had occupied.
Opposition politicians accused Lula and his left-wing
government of siding with the MST, which occupies land
it believes should be given to the poor, to the detriment
The owner of the 1,950-acre (800-hectare) ranch invaded
by the MST west of Brasilia said the law was on his
"They've been thrown out because this is private
property," said Mario Zinato, who gathered more
than 100 ranch hands to protect his land, saying he
had guns for them.
The showdown on Lula's doorstep came as his newly elected
government scrambled to quell a nationwide wave of MST
looting, blockades and invasions and calm a growing
climate of rural confrontation between peasant activists