Landless workers invade Brazil’s parliament

From Upside Down World, June 7:

About 300 demonstrators protesting the slow pace of land reform invaded the Brazilian Parliament Building June 7. The protesters vandalized the pristine building and destroyed a car waiting to be raffled off to Congressional staff member. Security officers called in by Speaker of the House Aldo Rebelo battled protesters who tried to enter the main floor of the Congress, while it was in session.

According to the AP, Marcos Praxedes, leader of the Movement for the Liberation of the Landless (MLST), said that the action was taken to express deep frustrations with delays in land reform under Brazilian President Lula da Silva. The MLST is smaller and distinct from the larger and well-known Landless Workers Movement (MST or Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra). Both groups occupy fallow land, which is constitutionally protected in Brazil. The MLST is known for its occupation of government offices.

The MST and the MLST have both criticized the Lula government for not doing enough for land reform during his term in office. In May 2005 more than 12,000 MST supporters marched 125 miles to the capital city of Brasilia to meet with the President. (BBC, May 18, 2005)

The government promised 400,000 families would be settled by 2006. Official figures of settled families hover around 90,000. The MST says the actual number is far less.

See our last post on land struggles in Brazil.

  1. More details…
    from Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 11:


    On June 6, hundreds of Brazilian landless workers from the Landless Liberation Movement (MLST), armed with sticks and farm implements, forced their way into an annex of the Chamber of Deputies building in Brasilia. The protesters reached a room next to one of the two main debating chambers where a legislative session was taking place. They smashed windows, tables and doors, and overturned and destroyed a car which was on display as the prize of a sweepstakes for congressional staff. Officials said about 500 people were arrested and more than 25 were hurt, one seriously, as police and security guards tried to regain control. The protesters said they were demanding legislative changes to speed up land reform and end slave labor. They said they had planned a peaceful protest but police attacked them. In a statement, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva condemned the unrest as an act of vandalism against democracy. Lula is seeking reelection in October. (BBC News, June 7)

    The Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST), Brazil’s largest and best-known landless organization, issued a press release on June 7 clarifying that it “did not take part in any of the protests conducted by the MLST at the Chamber of Deputies, in Brasilia.” The MST clarified that “the MLST is not a dissident group of the MST,” and the two groups are “in no way related.” (MST press release, June 7)

    The Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) described the June 6 events as “painful,” noting that some of the MLST members carried out “physical aggression against public servants.” The CPT said it was “not in agreement” with all the protest methods, but understands the “just” indignation that agricultural workers and other Brazilians feel “with so many scandals emerging every day involving legislators in corruption cases and the embezzlement of public resources.” The CPT noted that Congress recently rejected an official report on land conflicts, substituting it with a statement declaring land occupations to be a terrorist act.

    The CPT said it hopes the May 6 incident will lead the government to seek efficient and rapid solutions to the people’s legitimate demands. The CPT also expressed its desire that the MLST members arrested during the protest get their cases dealt with quickly and with all the benefits allowed under the law. The CPT explained to the Brazilian alternative news service Adital that the MLST was formed spontaneously in Pernambuco in 1997 by a group of landless workers led by Bruno Maranhao, a leader of the “Socialist Brazil” current of Lula’s leftist Workers Party (PT). (Adital, June 9)