October 16, 2007 / 9:26 PM / 11 years ago

Brazil's landless movement raids paper companies

BRASILIA, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Brazil’s militant landless peasants invaded tree plantations of Votorantim and Stora Enso paper companies on Tuesday, destroying saplings as part of a protest against multinational agricultural firms.

About 100 protesters belonging to the Landless Rural Workers Movement, or MST, raided a plantation belonging to the paper and cellulose division of Votorantim VCP.NVCPA4.SA in Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, the movement said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Votorantim said the protesters destroyed approximately 20 hectares of 1-year-old eucalyptus tree saplings and then left the property.

The MST also invaded a property of Scandinavian paper company Stora Enso (STERV.HE) in the same state. A company spokesman said they cut down only 40 trees and then abandoned the plantation.

“Families are protesting against the multinationals producing food and cellulose, which harm family farming and land reform,” the MST said.

The MST and more than a dozen other similar groups frequently occupy farms, block highways, torch crops, and stage rallies to pressure the government to redistribute more land to the poor.

The MST, probably the world’s largest land reform group, says it has settled more than 350,000 families during its 23-year existence. Now, some 150,000 families occupy land they want the government to expropriate and redistribute.

Brazil’s powerful farm lobby says the MST scares off investments by challenging the right to private property. (Reporting by Raymond Colitt)

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