photo by Hals - Leandro Bierhals (Flickr CC)

The MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra), translated as the Landless Workers Movement, is one of the world’s largest social movements. It operates on the principles of social justice, equality, democracy and the right to live on and work the land, a right MST believes is guaranteed by the constitution of Brazil.

Brazil’s economy is booming. In 2014 the Latin American giant will host the World Cup and in 2016 the Summer Olympic Games will take place in the iconic city of Rio de Janeiro. Yet despite strong economic growth, Brazil is still home to a shocking inequality, where the richest 1% has an equal income to the bottom 50%. In terms of property, 1% of the landowners own over half of the land, or according to MST’s own website, ‘just 3% of the population owns two-thirds of all arable lands’.

MST faces stiff and often violent opposition from landowners, illegal loggers, as well as corrupt officials and police.

Less than two weeks ago, 3 rural activists were shot dead in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state, possibly due to a land dispute with the owners of a large sugar mill.

Regardless as to who was responsible for this latest killing, the assassination of land activists is anything but uncommon.

From the Guardian:

The watchdog group Catholic Land Pastoral says more than 1,150 rural activists have been murdered in Brazil over the past 20 years. The killings are mostly carried out by gunmen hired by loggers, ranchers and farmers to silence protests over illegal logging and land rights, it says. Most of the killings happen in the Amazon region.

The government of Brazil has also demonstrated a disregard for and an inability to cope with both environmental and social injustices connected to the country’s land.

Instead of taking action to enforce the protection of these lands and the people living on them, the Government’s proposal is to instead reduce the settlement from its original 52000 hectares to 11000 hectares. Local government has proposed to clear the way for the loggers instead of enforcing forest protection and removing the loggers.

–Greenpeace

For more on this story see this article on the Greenpeace website and the following documentary by VBS’s Toxic: