Brazil's Finance Ministry building in Brasilia was occupied on Monday by members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST), protesting against austerity measures as well as calling for land distribution.
The occupation of the Brazilian Finance Ministry forms part of nationwide protests against marking the National Day of Struggle for Agrarian Reform promoted by the MST. This also saw 2,000 landless workers occupy the Carajás railroad in Parauapebas used by the mining company Vale to transport ore from its mines to the a major port in São Luis. The company is accused by the MST of forcing peasants from their land in order to expand its mining projects in Para.
The MST is targeting budget cuts that it claims have reduced funding in half for agrarian reform from $1 billion to $500 million, while providing increased subsidies to big agribusiness.
"The government's budget cuts have reduced the resources to implement land reform, which will worsen the situation for landless farmers,” National MST leader, Silvia Reis Marques said in a statement on Monday.
According to government data, small farmers make up 33 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of Brazilian agriculture and occupy 74 percent of the rural workforce. Yet, small-scale farms only receive 25 percent of total public spending in comparison to large-scale agriculture, which receives 75 percent.
The MST also occupied finance ministries in other cities across the country, including Porto Alegre, Recife, Fortaleza, Florianopolis, Curitiba, Palmas, Paraíba and Bahia.
“We are against the cuts in social programs, for workers must not be the most affected by the mistakes of others,” MST Spokesman Alexandre Conceicao stated on Monday.
These sentiments coincide with the findings in a report published on Monday by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which called on the Brazilian government to examine it’s recent macro-economic policy.
“It is clear from the data that efforts to convince the private sector to lead economic growth, while cutting public investment and taking other measures that reduced aggregate demand, have not worked in Brazil,” said CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot. “The government urgently needs to implement counter-cyclical measures in order to bring about an economic recovery.”