Brazil Farmers End Ranch Occupation

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Mon Mar 25 22:45:30 GMT 2002

Brazil Farmers End Ranch Occupation 
The Guardian
Sunday March 24, 2002 

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) - Landless farmers (from the "Movimento Sem Terra" - MST) who invaded a ranch owned by the children of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso to demand land grants and better government services left peacefully early Sunday. 

After negotiations with the government's Institute for Colonization and Land Reform and facing some 300 federal policemen, about 500 families from the Landless Rural Workers Movement left the 2,200-acre ranch 120 miles east of Brasilia. No apparent damage was done to the ranch, a presidential press officer said. Federal Police arrested 16 group leaders. 

``They broke their promises. The Land Reform Institute had assured us that no one would be arrested,'' said William Douglas da Silva, an activist of the MST landless movement in Brasilia. He said the Land Reform Institute also had promised to negotiate with the landless over demands for land grants for 80 families in the region of the ranch, the construction of schools and health clinics as well as federal government money to give land to 80,000 families. Justice Minister Aloysio Nunes Ferreira said the government made no promises and that those arrested were charged with resisting police, invasion of agricultural property, theft and violation of a private home. He did not have information about what was allegedly stolen. 

In Brazil, the wealthiest 20 percent of the population controls nearly 90 percent of the land. Brazil's Minister of Agrarian Development Raul Jungmann on Saturday had called the invasion ``an act of terrorism,'' and Cardoso reportedly had referred to it as an onslaught against democracy. 

Landless farmers had threatened earlier to invade the President's family ranch. In September 2000, the government deployed 300 soldiers to protect the property from some 600 farmers who camped outside the ranch for more than a week. 

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