Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Some 400 demonstrators pushing for land reform blocked and disabled a key iron ore export railway in Brazil for several hours before moving out as police arrived on Wednesday.

The Carajas railroad run by Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD), the world's biggest iron ore miner, transports 300,000 metric tons of iron ore per day from one of its main mines there.

The Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) and the mine workers invaded the tracks near the town of Parauapebas in northern Para state in the lower Amazon basin. The group has spearheaded several other actions against Vale to pressure the government to speed up its land reform program.

According to a statement issued by Vale, the protesters pulled out 1,200 track clamps, slashed fiber optic communication cables and placed burning tires on the tracks, damaging more than 300 ties. Guedes said the railway was still inoperative.

The blockade is also part of an on going campaign for nationalization of resources.

NACLA points out Brazil lags far behind her left-leaning neighbors in government initiatives that bring privatized national resources back into the public domain. In recent months, however, Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) and other groups have launched mass actions that demand similar moves toward national resource sovereignty.

The MST, which has spent the last 20 years developing a massive direct-action approach to demand agrarian reform, has now committed itself to helping Brazil rethink the control of national resources. With over 350,000 MST families living in direct-action secured agrarian reform settlements, and an additional 120,000 families currently living on occupied estates, the MST has called on its members to lead the fight for a new wave of state-led expropriations.

Established in 1942, NACLA reports CVRD was a successful and profitable state-owned company, but it was auctioned off in 1997 during a wave of privatizations encouraged by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Sold for $3.3 billion in 1997, the CVRD’s own estimates were that its market value was closer to $40 billion. To put these figures in perspective, CVRD’s market value as of June 30, 2007, was $103billion, with second- and third-quarter profits this year at $4.1 and $2.6 billion, respectively.

The MST’s demands for re-nationalizations are not beyond the scope of its central grievance of land reform, writes NACLA. Movement leader João Pedro Stédile in an interview explained, “The new model for agricultural that we are calling for entails a development project based on the defense of popular sovereignty and on a new economic model, which has at its core a strong internal market, the distribution of income, and a national industry that sustains the creation of jobs and income for the people.”

The following is from Reuters.

Brazil protesters end blockade of miner Vale's railroad

Landless Brazilian peasants ended their blockade of a railroad run by mining company Vale on Wednesday after a daylong protest that caused trade losses worth at least $22 million.

Damaged tracks still needed to be repaired, Vale said in a statement, without saying when it expected to resume iron ore shipments.

The blockade on Tuesday halted the transporting of 285,000 tonnes of iron ore along the Carajas railroad in northern Para state, which links one of Vale's main mines to ports and pelletizing plants.

Vale, the world's biggest iron ore miner, said the blockade caused daily losses of $22 million to Brazil's trade balance, as it cannot export the ore overseas. Vale is Brazil's biggest net exporter.

The leftist Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) and some wildcat miners invaded the tracks near Parauapebas on Tuesday afternoon to protest lack of help from the federal and state governments, Vale said.

Vale urged authorities to resolve the issue and said it was unfairly targeted by the protesters as it had nothing to do with their problems. It was the 11th time since March 2007 protesters had invaded Vale facilities.

Last month, landless peasants staged demonstrations across Brazil as part of their annual "Red April" campaign to demand land for about 150,000 homeless families and more public money for farm production.

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