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National Congress of Brazil’s Landless Movement: Reinvention in Motion

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After three decades of struggle for agrarian reform, Brazil's Landless Movement paused during its 6th Congress to evaluate its experience and reflect on the new reality. The goal: to change while changing themselves.   

"Our greatest victory was to build an organization of campesinos that rescued the history of land struggle, that lasts over time, that maintains its internal unity, and that has become a point of reference, even internationally," reflects Gilmar Mauro, historical leader of one of the largest social movements in the world.[1] From February 10-14, the Landless Workerss Movement (MST, by its Portuguese initials) held its sixth congress in Brasília. The Congress sought to define new directions in the thirty year history of the MST.

Between 12,000 and 15,000 delegates participated in the meeting, marked by the solid organization based in discipline and collective work that is characeristic of the the movement. Far from being a bureaucratic affair, the Congress stood out for its many colors and the songs, plays and performances that animated the members and have become a hallmark of the peasant organization. A huge camp managed by movement leaders housed the delegates.

Before the end of the sixth Congress, delegates marched to the Palacio de Planalto, where clashes with police were reported. A large delegation was received by [Brazilian President] Dilma Rousseff on Thursday, February 13. Before the extensive list of unmet demands presented by the landless-who accuse her government of giving the fewest number of peasant farmers land since the end of the dictatorship-the president responded with a terse: "Pass on all the information you can about what wrong is being done and we will make changes."

It was the first time that Rousseff received  the landless, who complained that they were received several times by [former President] Lula da Silva, as well as conservative [former president] Henrique Cardoso. Three days later, in her weekly radio program "Coffee with the President," Rousseff seemed happy that Brazil will become the world's largest producer of soybeans this year. Its bumper crop (estimated at 90 million tons) will overtake the United States.  


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