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The Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) of Brazil, which has mobilized more than a million Brazilians to occupy and farm large landholdings, was cautiously optimistic when Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva of the Workers Party won the presidency in 2002. “We campaign for Lula,” remarked MST organizer Jonas da Silva (no relation) during the campaign, “even though we are critical of him for shaping his discourse for the middle class.” In the country with perhaps the most unequal land distribution in the world, electing a pro-worker, pro-poor president marked a potential turning point.
But as Lula finishes up his second term (new presidential elections take place in October 2010), the MST’s assessment is grim. Land redistribution has stagnated, the government continues to b
Our colleagues in the Brazilian Movement of People Displaced by Dams (MAB) just sent some wonderful news that I want to share with you. After a week of intense work gathering support from Brazilian and international organizations, 14 MAB members are now free, although another four still remain in jail.
The original group of 18 activists was arrested for demonstrating on behalf of families displaced by the Tucuruí Dam in the Amazon region. The group of peasant families called on the Brazilian government to stop the mega-dam project and instead provide infrastructure projects--such as roads, schools and health clinics--and to open lines of credit for agriculture and fishing farming.