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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 April, 2004, 03:49 GMT 04:49 UK
Brazil's land wars hit new height
By Steve Kingstone
BBC correspondent in Sao Paulo

President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva
Lula has vowed to address the land ownership issue
The number of land conflicts in Brazil reached record levels in 2003 according to new figures.

The pastoral land commission, which is linked to the Roman Catholic Church, says there were nearly 1,700 separate disputes last year.

That is the highest figure since the group began keeping records in 1985.

The figures make uncomfortable reading for Brazil's left-wing President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva who came to power promising land reform.

Growing unrest

Almost half of Brazil's farmland is owned by just 1% of the population - a statistic the president promised to address as a priority.

He claims to be the perfect person to push through land reform because of traditional ties between his Workers Party and the country's agrarian movement.

This report by the pastoral land commission suggests otherwise.

Landless Brazilians protest
Landless Brazilians are impatient with the pace of change
It says that during Lula's first year in office there were just under 1,700 land conflicts involving more than one million people - the highest figures on record.

And 73 people died when those disputes turned violent - that is almost double the equivalent figure in 2002.

The government has pledged extra money to buy farmland that is currently disused.

With it, it says it can resettle 400,000 landless families by 2007.

But the influential movement of landless rural workers or MST is unhappy with the pace of change. To force the issue its members have illegally occupied nearly 100 farms this year.

On Saturday the organisation is staging protests across the country to mark a sombre anniversary - the killing in April 1996 of a group of land protesters by the Brazilian police.




SEE ALSO:
Brazil landless step up seizures
11 Apr 04  |  Americas
Brazil moves to halt farm clashes
29 Jan 04  |  Americas
Brazil farmers threaten Indians
29 Jan 04  |  Americas
Indians invade Brazilian ranches
30 Dec 03  |  Americas
Lula faces mass land seizures
10 Mar 03  |  Americas


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