The Landless Workers’ Movement

The Landless Workers’ Movement i.e. Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra (MST), is one of the most important social movements in Brazil. With an estimated membership of 1.5 million people, the MST focuses on the defense of the fieldworker and fights for the long-asked Brazilian agrarian reform. Founded in 1984, in the context of the end of the military dictatorship, the MST started to operate with an important connection to the Catholic Church. In fact, the movement is strongly influenced by the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, according to which private property should serve a social function. Nevertheless, the MST modus operandi is far from reaching agreement and recently there is a lobby from the Brazilian conservative land-owners to brand their mode of action as that of terrorists. The typical scenario is the following: landless families break into private property and establish encampments which they occupy until the military come and expel them. Violence is thus often a sad feature of the land occupations. In 1996, 19 MST members were killed by the police in the Eldorado dos Carajás Massacre where they were trying to block a state road. There is a lot to know about the Landless Workers’ Movement, you can see their site here and see this short video telling the movement’s story above.

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