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Brazil’s Landless Workers Protest

August 11, 2000

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) _ Thousands of landless peasants rallied in front of the U.S. Embassy on Thursday, burning an American flag to protest the foreign lenders and their country’s free market policies.

The initials IMF, standing for the International Monetary Fund, were painted on the back of the flag.

The protesters linked to the Landless Rural Workers Movement, a peasant organization seeking land reform, also smashed the plaque identifying the compound as the U.S. Embassy.

Anti-riots police units were kept on alert, but there was no violence, a U.S. official said. Local media estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people took part in the protest.

``The actions of the government (of Brazil) are dictated by the IMF which, in turn, obeys to the United States government’s policies,″ said Christiane Campos, a member of the movement.

``High rates of unemployment and widespread poverty result from those policies. With this action we are showing that we don’t want an economy subdued to a foreign control that favors the rich,″ she said.

The IMF led a $41.5 billion bailout of Brazil’s economy two years ago that forced the country to curtail social spending and divert money to paying off its massive foreign debt.

The protesters call the IMF’s requirements unwanted foreign control and say they serve the interest of rich lenders at the expense of Brazil’s poor.

Organizers said the march was also aimed at putting pressure on the government to speed up land reform.

Although the current administration says it has distributed more land in the past five years than any other government in Brazilian history, the peasant group says the pace is still too slow.

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