March 9, 2009
RIO DE JANEIRO: Female landless workers occupied Brazil's agriculture ministry, a vital port, a farm owned by a paper company and other property on Monday to demand faster agrarian reform and a turn away from pro-business policies.
The Landless Rural Workers Movement and the Via Campesina activist group issued a statement saying the women's demonstrations were a call for Brazil to stimulate its domestic market instead of relying on exports.
"Agrarian reform and the small farmer are the solutions for the economic crisis because they would create jobs and increase food production," they said.
In the capital Brasilia, hundreds of women peacefully occupied the lobby of the agriculture ministry, but did not halt work there and they left by noon. The Movement said 800 women occupied the building. Local media said the figure was closer to 300.
In Espirito Santo state, just north of Rio, women occupied briefly stopped work at a port that yearly handles 7.5 million tons of cellulose, the raw material for paper. But a spokeswoman for paper company Aracruz Celulose SA said the port was fully operating by noon. The Movement said 1,300 women participated in that protest; Aracruz put the number at 450.
MST said 700 women also occupied a farm in southern Brazil owned by the paper-producing unit of Brazilian conglomerate Grupo Votorantim, and 600 women in Sao Paulo state occupied land owned by Cosan SA Industria e Comercio, Brazil's largest sugar and ethanol producer.
The landless activists frequently occupy property they consider unproductive to pressure the government to speed up land reform.