Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Brazil is a land of contrasts. According to the UN, it is the 4th most economically unequal country in the world. In the face of enormous productive capacity, a dazzling geographical landscape, awe-inspiring natural resources, and amazing cultural diversity, millions of Brazilians suffer from hunger, malnutrition, and lack of access to basic social services.

Unequal distribution of land - harking back to the Portuguese colonization of Brazil hundreds of years ago - is a signature cause of the human inequalities.

The Landless Peasants' Movement (MST), one of the largest social movements in the hemisphere, has organized over 1.5 million members in 23 states across Brazil.

They have successfully settled tens of thousands of families by taking over unproductive land and founding communities that work together to meet their own needs - not only cultivating food, but building water treatment systems, creating housing, and developing schools. You don't often get to read about these activities. And you won't in the article below either.

Oh well...

The following is from Reuters AlertNet.

Brazil protesters raid Cemig utility headquarters

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, April 4 (Reuters) - About 300 protesters from Brazil's militant Landless Peasants' Movement (MST) on Monday raided the headquarters of Minas Gerais state power utility Cemig causing damage to its offices.

Cemig press service said the protesters, whose invasion coincided with a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank in the state capital, destroyed computers, office equipment and furniture. It did not provide an assessment for the damage.

Cemig said four people, including two police officers, were hurt. A group of families affected by the construction of hydroelectric dams financed by the IADB were among the protesters.

Land invasions are common in Brazil, mainly to demand that the government speed up the distribution of public land for settlement of poor peasants. But protesters have been targeting well-known companies lately in a change of tactics that caused concern among businesses.

In early March, about 2,000 protesters from a peasants' movement allied to the MST ransacked a plantation in southern Brazil owned by Aracruz the world's biggest producer of bleached eucalyptus pulp, and caused what the company said was millions of dollars of damage and losses.

Later last month during an international meeting on biodiversity in southern Brazil, the movement's activists invaded a farm owned by Switzerland's Syngenta AG alleging illegal tests with genetically-modified seeds there. The company has denied any illegal tests.

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