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article imageRousseff meets Brazil peasant leaders after protest

By AFP     Feb 13, 2014 in World

Leaders of a movement of landless peasants met with Brazil President Dilma Rousseff Thursday to air their grievances a day after a violent protest over the government's agricultural policies.

Alexandre Conceicao, the movement's national coordinator, told reporters after the session they were invited to meet with the president after Wednesday's clashes, which left 42 people injured.

"We told the president the government is very mistaken in terms of agribusiness," he said, faulting big producers for concentrating land ownership in Brazil and harming the environment with pesticides.

He said the activists pressed Rousseff for land for 100,000 families living in makeshift rural camps.

"This is going to be a great year of struggles and mobilizations to settle all those families," he said.

Agrarian Development Minister Pepe Vargas told reporters after the meeting the government could distribute land this year to 30,000 families and would look into accelerating the process in newly irrigated areas of northeastern Brazil.

Wednesday's march by some 16,000 landless farmers was the latest in a series of protests rocking the nation, raising security concerns just four months before Brazil hosts the World Cup.

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the marchers after some began dismantling barricades near the presidential palace.

Rousseff was not in the building as the disturbance unfolded.

In the end, 30 police were injured -- as well as 12 of the protesters, police and the Landless Movement (MST) said.

Vargas said that the incident was not discussed in the session with Rousseff, although he commended the MST leaders for quickly disbanding the protest after it turned violent.

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