SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - About 1,000 landless peasant families invaded a farm belonging to a firm owned by the family of Brazilian Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi on Tuesday, according to a statement from the group backing the occupation.
The landless peasant movement, known as MST, said in a statement on its website that the occupation began early Tuesday morning on a farm 210 kilometers (131 miles) from Cuiabá, capital of Mato Grosso state. The group said the property belongs to Amaggi SA.
Mato Grosso is Maggi's home state and the country's agricultural heartland.
Press representatives for Amaggi confirmed the invasion of the SM02 farm, adding that it is taking measures to ensure the safety of 17 workers and their family members who reside on the property. Amaggi also is seeking the legal means to remove the protesters from the 479-hectare property.
The Agriculture Ministry referred comments to Amaggi. Mato Grosso is expected to produce about 60 million tons of soybeans and corn in the current crop cycle.
MST uses land occupation and other forms of social activism as a way to pressure the government to promote land reform, including distribution of lots for poor rural workers.
Brazil has a long history of violent land disputes that have pitted farmers against peasants as well as indigenous groups.
MST says 68 people have been murdered in connection with land conflicts in Brazil this year. The group aims to convince the government to expropriate and distribute land to 130,000 peasant families, it said in the statement.