Brazil landless raid Reverend Moon cattle ranch

Reuters/July 30, 2007
By Andrea Welsh

Brasilia -- At least 100 landless people have taken over a ranch in southwestern Brazil owned by South Korea religious leader Reverend Sun Myung Moon and evicted his followers, said police on Monday.

The landless workers stormed onto the ranch Friday night, changing the locks on the gates, raiding the property's headquarters and kicking out everyone except a lone South Korean man who peacefully resisted, local media reported. The man later fell ill and was taken to a hospital.

The 7,410-acre (3,000-hectare) Jamaica Ranch was used mainly for grazing cattle by a few dozen members of Rev. Moon's Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, said Luis Carlos Bonelli, an official for Brazil's agrarian land reform agency, Incra.

Incra had claimed the Jamaica Ranch and two adjacent properties for landless farm workers in 2004, but a local prosecutor blocked a license needed to settle the workers and their families, Bonelli said.

Since then, almost 300 families have been camped out at the edges of the ranch, waiting to move onto the property and begin farming.

Rev. Moon and his followers have been buying land in the area since the 1990s and today own some 173,000 acres (70,000 hectares) in Mato Grosso do Sul, the western state where the Jamaica Ranch is located, Bonelli said.

The precinct chief for the nearby town of Jardim said the police would not try to evict the farmhands without a judge's order.

"From what we could see there were about 100 of them," said precinct chief Valdemiro Arguilheira.

A spokesman for Rev. Moon's federation in Mato Grosso do Sul was not immediately available to comment.

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