The Landless Movement (MST) of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in the south of Brazil, mobilized over 2,000 people from 14 encampments and occupied the latifúndio (large estate) known as Fazenda Guerra at the end of February.
The property, which the MST calls unproductive, is located in the municipality of Coqueiros do Sul, northern region of Rio Grande do Sul. The MST has not conducted such a massive land occupation, with members from many encampments, since the end of the 1990’s.
According to Ana Hanauer, of the MST’s Coordinating Body in Rio Grande do Sul, the occupation has certain unique characteristics since, besides bringing together landless workers from a number of encampments, the occupying families have begun to build permanent housing on the site – turning the property into an MST settlement.
One indication of the encampments’ permanence is the use of wooden construction material, instead of the typical and more temporary, black plastic tarps or black canvas (lona preta). One of the first structures built has been a educational facility.
The MST are demanding the immediate settlement of the 2,500 families living in encampments throughout Rio Grande do Sul. Some of these families have spent 7 years living under black canvas. In the last 3 years, only 220 families have been settled in new settlements.
The majority of families who participated in the latest land occupation are from an encampment built on the side of Highway RS-406, in Nanoi. These landless workers suffered a forced displacement by the Military Police on February 23.
"The Federal Government doesn’t meet the goals of the National Plan for Agrarian Reform and the State Government treats the land question as a police affair, forcing us to live on the sides of the highway.
"Our only other option is to occupy unproductive lands and denounce to society the fact that Agrarian Reform is stopped in our state. It is not a priority for Lula or for our governor, Rigotto. There is more than enough land for settlements", affirmed Edenir Vassoler, of the MST’s Coordinating Body for RS.
Fazenda Guerra is one of the largest latifúndios in Rio Grande do Sul, with 7,000 hectares in the municipalities of Coqueiros do Sul, Carazinho and Pontão. The owner of the property, Felix Tubino Guerra, has a history of unpaid debts and violations of labor laws. The area is large enough to settle roughly 350 families. This is the third time the MST has occupied the estate.
MST – www.mst.com.br