Thousands of small farmers took to the streets in several Brazilian cities to protest President Lula da Silva’s administration tight credit policy and to demand better living conditions for the country’s millions of peasant families
Main protests took place in the capital Brasília where an estimated 1.500 farmers marched along the city’s wide boulevards next to the presidential palace, Congress and different government ministries offices.
Other cities with demonstrations included the states of Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul and Mato Grosso do Sul. Farmers are demanding soft loans, debt relief and improved support for farm families.
Paulo de Tarso, head of Contag, National Confederation of Agricultural Workers, said the movement also wants all Brazilian small farmers integrated to the formal economy, since the majority has no rights to retirement pensions or other labor benefits.
Another demand is greater government efforts in helping to reduce rural violence which in 2005, mainly because of armed land disputes, with a death toll of 38 small farmers.
The protests inaugurated the "Cry of the Land" week, which will be holding rallies, marches and demonstrations to expose the plight of the estimated fifteen million peasant families across Brazil.
Debates are scheduled to take place in huge tents erected along Brasilia’s main avenue with an agenda including among other topics, family agriculture, rural violence, sustainable development, social security benefits for peasants, tight money, debt relief, according to Contag’s Paulo de Tarso.
Some of the huge South American country’ highways in farming states were temporarily blocked by peaceful protestors.
However governors in the states of Mato Grosso do Sul and Rio Grande do Sul urgently flew to Brasília to meet President Lula da Silva because they feel blockades and protests are "getting out of control."
"If we’d had the soybean harvest we expected the situation would have been even worse," said Rio Grande do Sul governor Germano Rigotto.
Small farmers demands coincide with complaints made public Monday by the all powerful National Agriculture Confederation, which represents Brazil’s large scale farmers who are claiming the sector faces the "worst crisis of the last 20 years."
The substantial appreciation of the Brazilian currency against the US dollar, growing cheap competition from imports, burdensome taxes, high interests, scarce credit plus bad weather have made CNA members particularly negative about this year’s outlook with 76% forecasting lower harvests and yields.
Brazil is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of soybean, cereals, beef, fruits and coffee. Brazilian economic statistics show that agriculture and livestock industries account for one third of the country’s GDP and over 40% of exports.
Mercopress – www.mercopress.com