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The BBC's Ian Bruce
"This was the worst clash so far in over a week of renewed confrontation"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 2 May, 2000, 23:53 GMT 00:53 UK
Peasants' protest sweeps Brazil
MST militants arrested
Police arrested at least 200 landless people
Members of the landless movement clashed with police and invaded public buildings and farms in a wave of protests in Brazil.

In the worst clash, at least 200 people were arrested and several were injured in the southern state of Parana.

A convoy of 30 buses carrying more than 1,000 peasants were stopped on the main road to the state capital, Curitiba, by riot police who fired teargas and stun grenades.

The Landless Rural Workers Movement, (MST) and other groups are demanding land distribution and more credits for poor rural workers.


MST militant injured in Parana
Several MST militants were injured in Parana
Brazil is estimated to have the second most unequal land distribution in the world - after Paraguay.

The MST said it would intensify invasions of land and public buildings until President Fernando Henrique Cardoso agreed to meet its leaders.

"Brazil is living an explosive moment that could get worse if we don't get answers," Gilmar Mauro, one of the MST national co-ordinators, said.

The MST wants a pledge from the government to find land for 100,000 families and credits to help families that have been settled.


Protest hotspots
Parana - At least 200 arrested and several injured
Brasilia - 100 peasants invade the National Institute of Land Reform
Rio de Janeiro - 300 landless people occupy the National Development Bank
Sao Paulo - 200 MST militants try to invade Finance Ministry regional building
The group is demanding $6.1 billion this year for land settlement compared with the government's budgeted $720 million.

The government says it has redistributed more land than any other administration in Brazil's history.

Mr Cardoso has several times accused the MST of acting as a "fascist" group which does not respect democracy and law.

Strike

The protests came in the same week that truck drivers launched a nationwide strike to demand lower tolls and safer highways.

On Monday, at least 600,000 workers also protested in Sao Paulo against unemployment and low wages on May Day.

"We decided to time our protests with other groups to show that the country is in crisis," said MST co-ordinator Gilmar Mauro.

Land invasions by peasants are common throughout Brazil, often accompanied by violent clashes with farmers.

According to the Pastoral Land Commission, about half of the nation's arable land is still controlled by a handful of Brazil's wealthiest families.

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See also:

06 Apr 00 | Americas
Brazilian land activist walks free
21 Aug 99 | Americas
Brazilian police trial suspended
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