Movimento Sem Terra

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Movimento Sem Terra

In January 1984 some one hundred peasants, priests, labor union leaders, and intellectuals founded the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST; Landless Rural Workers Movement) in Cascavel, Paraná. It united peasants struggling to preserve their farms as well as those who had already lost either their land or livelihoods as a result of rampant capitalist agricultural development policies promoted by transnational corporations and Brazil's military regime. Advocating an aggressive agrarian reform, the MST used direct occupations of land to force its redistribution, helping more than two million people settle in farm communities by 2004. Tithing, political independence, participatory democracy, and cultural activities designed to fortify a common peasant identity secured both organizational vitality and loyalty. Its successes inspired dozens of copycat organizations, but none achieved the institutional durability that has enabled the MST to establish a place as one of the world's most successful social movements.

See alsoAgrarian Reform; Land Tenure, Brazil.


Branford, Sue, and Jan Rocha. Cutting the Wire: The Story of the Landless Movement in Brazil. London: Latin American Bureau, 2002.

Fernandes, Bernardo Mançano. A formação do MST no Brasil. Petrópolis, Brazil: Editora Vozes, 2000.

                                            Cliff Welch

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Movimento Sem Terra

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