Brazil’s MST, the Landless Rural Worker Movement has been demonstrating since the beginning of the month, demanding land reform and commemorating the massacre of 21 rural workers 16 years ago.
This is part of the MST’s annual Red April, a month of protests that is used to pressure the government to address their demands.
The MST Red April movement usually includes invasions of rural properties, marches, blocking of highways, protests in front of courthouses and the occupation of government buildings.
In Rio they marched to the headquarters of the National Institute of Settlement and Land Reform (Incra) and blocked some main avenues in the city center.
One of the MST spokespersons declared that the problem is that in Brazil there are families that have been waiting ten years for the government to give them a lot so they can make a living farming.
In São Paulo, on April 17, the anniversary of the Carajás massacre, MST protesters closed a number of highways for 21 minutes in honor of the 21 landless workers who were killed. There were also demonstrations in downtown, in front of a central courthouse (Tribunal de Justiça, at Praça João Mendes).
In Brasilia, once again commemorating the massacre of Eldorado das Carajás, MST protesters occupied the Ministry of Agrarian Development at exactly 8:21 am. At 11:00 they met with the minister of Agrarian Development, Pepe Vargas, when they demanded that the government release funds for land reform.
Later in the afternoon, the Chamber of Deputies held a debate on the land reform movement and commemorated the massacre of Carajás. At the same time, there were demonstrations in front of the Supreme Court.
According to Valdir Misnerovicz, a member of the MST coordinating committee, “The delay in settling families is one problem. Another matter of great concern is that families that have lots have real difficulties that have to be resolved.”
Representatives of the MST delivered a list of their demands to representatives of the president’s cabinet on April 11. This has become an annual occurrence, a harbinger of what is known as Red April when a wave of red flags (symbols of the MST) is supposed to sweep across the land as the group holds demonstrations and invades farms and public buildings commemorating the 17th of April in 1996 when the Massacre of Eldorado dos Carajás took place. At that time, 21 landless workers were killed by police in the state of Pará.
The MST document, given to ministers of Agrarian Development Pepe Vargas and Gilberto Carvalho from the president’s General Secretariat, called on the government to provide land for “…more than 4 million families of rural workers who are waiting for land while another 186,000 families are camped out in precarious conditions, living in canvas tents, as part of the struggle for a just and equitable land reform so family farmers can produce healthy food for the population.”
According to the MST, land reform is at a complete standstill in Brazil.
Besides land, the MST demands include more rural credit so “peasants and family farms can produce, organize in cooperatives and use ecologically friendly farming techniques.”
In a note, the Ministry of Agrarian Development promised to analyze the MST demands. According to ministry spokespersons, a meeting between minister Vargas and MST representatives took place in a calm atmosphere.
The MST promises more protest demonstrations around the country when the anniversary of Eldorado das Carajás arrives.