BRASILIA, 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 reform.
The previous center-right government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso
tried to prevent MST invasions and stop members taking land they
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 of landowners.
The owner of the 1,950-acre (800-hectare) ranch invaded by the
MST west of Brasilia said the law was on his side.
"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 and landowners.