Brazil's Landless Refuse to Be Voiceless as Well Grass-Roots Movement Becomes Main Political Opposition

By Howard LaFranchi, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, February 18, 1997 | Go to article overview

Brazil's Landless Refuse to Be Voiceless as Well Grass-Roots Movement Becomes Main Political Opposition


Howard LaFranchi, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


The blue-and-white tile mural that dominates the entrance to the Carlos Botelho Agricultural School shows a bucolic scene of a proud farmer tilling his land with a horse-drawn plow.

The peaceful picture stands in stark contrast to the reality of rural Brazil. Like the wheat, soy, and cattle-grazing lands that surround this community 100 miles west of Sao Paulo, farmlands across Brazil are the scene of thousands of land disputes. Violence often erupts as hundreds of thousands of rural Brazilians who see no alternative to farming demand their own plot of ground.

The Carlos Botelho School has not escaped this maelstrom. It stands occupied by 500 families who say they will not leave until the government gives them land. The demands, and the government's failure to address them over the past decade, have given rise to the Sem Terra, or Landless Movement, which some observers now consider to be Brazil's principal political opposition force. After more than 500 land invasions in the 1990s that involved more than 151,000 families, Sem Terra leaders are pledging to ratchet up pressure on the government in the coming weeks to force an acceleration of land distribution and a shift in agrarian reform. March on capital Yesterday, Sem Terra contingents from around the country were to begin a two-month march on the capital, Brasilia, to mark the one-year anniversary of the April 17 massacre of 19 squatters in Eldorado dos Carajas by Para state military police. Anticipating stepped-up activism over the coming weeks, the government on Friday announced new security measures to stop land seizures. The government said it is moving as fast as possible on land distribution. Aiming even higher, Sem Terra leaders are also hoping to stall, if not derail, a list of belt-tightening national economic reforms and privatizations - saying they will lead to even greater hardships for Brazil's poor. For the protesters who took over the classrooms and dormitories of the Carlos Botelho School last month, however, the first objective remains land. "We have given the government 45 days to resolve the situations of these families by resettling them, but we are also pledged to occupy the school until everyone has land," says Jose Gais, a local Sem Terra leader whose family is among the 500 camped here. Itapetininga's landless protesters claim that much of the verdant farmland surrounding them belongs to the government or absentee landlords for whom land was nothing more than a hedge against Brazil's once Himalayan-sized inflation. Meeting with other movement leaders under Sem Terra's now nationally recognized flag - a white medallion showing a farm couple and a green Brazil centered on a crimson field - Mr. Gais and his colleagues, who are all jobless, say they have an alternative vision of how Brazilian agriculture should develop. "The government's agrarian model is designed to create large farms producing goods for export," says Daniel Costa, another local Sem Terra leader. "But all that plan has done is concentrate land ownership even more, while farmers like us have lost our jobs.... Our approach," he adds, "is to encourage production for people here, and not on small isolated farms but through diverse and value-adding cooperatives." Land distribution is not a new problem in Brazil, where some farms are larger than European countries. In a country where income distribution is considered the world's worst, land distribution is on a similarly unequal plane. But the size and impact of the landless issue has grown swiftly over recent years for several reasons: * Land claims became bottled up during the early '90s as the government failed to pay the problem any serious attention; * A recession in the early '90s and agricultural modernization in Brazil's most productive states in the south teamed up to cut demand for farm laborers even as many farm-related businesses folded, putting tens of thousands of low-skilled workers out of a job.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Brazil's Landless Refuse to Be Voiceless as Well Grass-Roots Movement Becomes Main Political Opposition
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.